Up the Coffee Mountain – Manabu Peak (760+)

MANABU PEAK
Sto. Tomas, Batangas
Jump-off point: Sulok, Brgy. Sta Cruz, Sto. Tomas
LLA: 13.9777°, 121.2413°, 760 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 1-2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-2
Features: Woodlands, meadowy peak, views of Batangas mountains
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

 

Kapeng Alamid, Anyone?

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Mataas na Bundok

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Finding Lomi

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Manabu Peak

Dayhike Itinerary
Sto. Tomas, Batangas



0730  – Buendia, take bus to SM Lipa (124php/pax)
0845  – Arrival at SM Lipa, breakfast
0900  – Take tricycle going to Brgy. Sta. Rosa (150php/trip)
0920  – Arrival at Brgy. Sta Rosa (20php/pax – registration fee, 500php/5pax – guide fee)
0930  – Proceed to Sulok jump-off point
0945  – Start trek
1039  – Mang Tino’s Hut
1100  – Manabu Peak
1200  – Descend via the grotto trail
1320  – Jump-off point
1410  – Depart
1430  – Post climb meal at James’ Lomi House
1600  – Lipa Public Market, buy Kape Barako
1700  – SM Lipa, take bus bound for Manila


Budget:

Transportation: 450php
Fees: 270php


Total Damage: 720php/pax (900php/pax safe budget)

For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.
-Jean-Paul Sartre


Go, Carve That Niche,
Rex

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Caught in the Moment – Baler, Aurora

Baler, Aurora Daytrip Series (Part 2)


The Dicasalarin Cove

Right after a walk down the historic Baler Plaza, Kuya Michael and I met up and resumed our adventure. I was a little cautious while driving the single motorcycle I rented, but it didn’t took long before the adrenaline started pumping as I got faster along Cemento Road. We happened to pass by almost everything the province has to offer from beaches to waterfalls to stunning rock formations and the like. But we opted to go for the last and least visited place, the Dicasalarin Cove. You can also reach this place by boat.

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Around 20 minutes on a steep uphill road, we caught glimpse of the PAGASA Weather Station and its doppler radar, first in the country and the light house. It was no easy drive going to the cove since the inclination of the road is rather frightening if you had just one wrong move. Then upon reaching the gate we paid for the entrance fee as well as the parking fee and the cove welcomed us in its full tropical glory. The place is a private property owned solely by the Angara Family.

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Upon reaching the cove by 1:10pm, I immediately took a good walk on its fine white sand beach and had a good look on its clear blue waters and the accompanying raging waves.

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Since the tide is low, my guide suggested that we visit the Punta Encanto Cave which only appears when the waters go low. A good 10 minute walk facing the pacific and we reached the cave in no time. During high tides one may opt to swim to reach it.

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This is a good place to swim if the stifling heat becomes unbearable. The water inside is just around 4 to 5 feet and varies according to the tide.

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After a good swim, I headed for the Dicasalarin Light House which is just above the gargantuan islet housing the cave. It will take you 140 steps before you reach the origami like structure that serves as a beacon for the vessels passing by the Baler Bay and the cove.

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The afternoon siesta time finally hit me, so I headed back to one of the cottages to catch some good zzzz’s before tidying up and get on the adventure mode again.

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A quick nap by the beach and I tidied up and explored the place some more, from the Ifugao Cottages, an old bridge will lead you to a forested area that contains a treasure inside it called the Artist’s Village. An hour more of trek and a waterfall is waiting for any visitor who wants to visit it.

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The Artist Longhouse perfectly represents the province’s skill in wood carving, architecture, and the love for the arts. This is a three-storey open structure that has paintings inside, furnitures, sculptures and many more.

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The Diguisit

One thing I noticed about Aurora is its unlikely penchant for places that start with the word “DI” (Dinadiawan, Dingalan, Dikildit, Ditumabo, Dicasalarin) but this time I’ll be heading to the famous Sitio Diguisit of Brgy. Zabali.

Heading back to the Cemento Road is again a challenging task of going back through the steep roads where we came from. And first on our list as we got down is the Tromba Marina.

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Since tgere’s not enough time for me to climb the Ermita Hill, that happens to be Baler’s highest peak overlooking the bay, I just took a good look at the sculpture of seven people holding each other’s hand as a wave comes after them. This commemorates the devastating tsunami that wiped down the whole town on December 27, 1735. They represent the seven families that seek refuge at the top of the Hill. The Angara’s and the Bitong’s of which are the oldest surviving clans up to the present day Baler.

Next is the Dimadimalangat Islets, consisted of massive rocks protruding from the shore, and is battered by the waves and scuplted by nature over time immemorial.

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Next to the Islets is the Diguisit Falls, which happens to be just a short walk from the side of the road.

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By 4:40pm, we reached the Digusit Beach and its rocky shore that leads to the Aniao Islet. Also dubbed as the Cobra Beach, due to the waves during swell months that looks similar to cobras slithering up with its head held up high, high waves indeed.

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Then our last stop for the day was the Baler Hanging Bridge which is at Brgy. Zabali, the sun has finally set from the horizon and my trip is now coming to an end. I reached the hanging bridge by 5:30pm and the sunset from here was quite awesome.

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From the Hanging Bridge, I had my last ride with my habal-habal going to the public market where the commuter vans are now waiting. I got back at Cabanatuan by 11pm, and was back at Manila by 1:30am the following day.

I can now finally say that Baler is indeed a great place to spend your vacation, and if not applicable, a day trip is still possible but not for the faint hearted. Only a day passed but it felt like several days to me. It is good knowing that whatever challenges that you are facing right now, a good adventure will take away all your worries of the hustle and bustle of the city, just remember that everything seems to crazy until you prove them otherwise. Get caught in the moment, live it!

Budget and Itinerary

Baler, Aurora
Solo Daytrip Itinerary

0100  Departure from Cubao via Genesis Liner (450php/pax)
0700  Arrival at Baler, breakfast, meet guide
0730  Start Habal-Habal tour (800php/day)
0800  Brgy. Ditumabo, trek to Mother Falls (30php/entrance fee, 20php/parking fee)
0830  Ditumabo Mother Falls
0900  Trek back to jump-off point
0930  Back at jump-off, travel to Brgy. Quirino, Maria Aurora
1000  Millenium Tree
1015  Travel to Sabang Beach
1040  Sabang Beach
1100  Travel back to Baler town proper, lunch
1120  Baler Town, Lunch
1140  Baler town proper, visit Museo De Baler, Aurora Aragon House, Baler Church and Plaza.
1220  Travel to Dicasalarin Cove, Brgy. Zabali
1310  Dicasalarin Cove, visit Punta Encanto Cave and Lighthouse. (350php/pax entrance and parking fee)
1430  Back at the cottage, rest, tidy up
1520  Explore Dicasalarin Artists Longhouse
1545  Travel back to Diguisit
1615  Diguisit Beach, Dimadimalangat Islets, Diguisit Falls, Tromba Marina
1640  Diguisit Beach, Aniao Islets
1700  Travel to Baler Hanging Bridge
1730  Baler Hanging Bridge
1800  Baler Terminal, Dinner, tidy up
1840  Ride Van bound to Cabanatuan (230php/pax)
1930  ETD of Van
2300  Arrival at Cabanatuan Bus Terminal, take bus back to Manila (120php/pax)
0130  Manila

Total Damage:
Transportation: 800php
Fees:
Ditumabo 30php (Entrance Fee)
20php (Parking Fee)
Dicasalarin 300php (Entrance + Cottage Fee)
50php (Parking Fee)
Habal-Habal Tour 800php + 200php tip for Dicasalarin Cove

Total Damage:
Solo: 2200php/pax (Safe Budget: 2500php/pax)
3pax: 1600php/pax (Additional budget depends on arrangements with the tour guide)

Notes:
● From Cubao, you have three options:
– Take Genesis Liner Bus bound for Baler, trips start by 12mn, and bus schedule is on an hourly basis, travel time 6-7hrs
–  Take Joy Bus, the express coach of Genesis Liner, but costs 700php/way, travel time is 4-5hrs, no stop over, same schedule as the Genesis Regular Airconditioned buses
– Take ES Transport or Baliwag Transit Buses bound for Cabanatuan, then from Cabanatuan find Baler bound buses that starts their trip at 6am
● Manila bound Genesis Liner buses from Baler has last their last trip at 10am, if doing a daytrip, one can opt to take Cabanatuan bound vans at the Van Terminal behind the Public Market, last trip is at 7pm, then from Cabanatuan, ride Manila bound buses
● Tricycles can’t reach Dicasalarin Cove due to steep uphill roads, tour operators recommend to take single motorcycles/Habal-Habal, if you are in for an adventure, drive it yourself
● You can contact two of the local tourism guides of Baler for more info, I personally recommend their service:
Kuya Michael Dela Cruz – +639204365056
Kuya Wendell – +639099283851
● You can extend this Itinerary and travel to Casiguran, Aurora on Day 02, it is three hours away from Baler and is adjacent with Isabela Province, or to Dingalan, Aurora which is an hour and a half away and the one bordering the Quezon Province

It’s like Forrest Gump said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates.’ Your career is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and make you the person you are today. That’s the exciting part – it’s an adventure in itself.
– Nick Carter

Go, Carve That Niche,
Rex

How Far Can You Go? – Mt. Ugo (2150+)

MT. UGO (2,150+)
Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet
Jump-off points: Kayapa, N. Vizcaya; Brgy. Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet
LLA: 16.31916°N, 120.80166°E, 2130 MASL
Days required / hours to summit: 2-3 days, 9-10 hrs
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail Class 1-3
Features: Pine forests, highland villages, views of Cordillera peaks
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

Day by day, this world is fast changing and sometimes we feel like being left behind. Look back, and see that great things changed in just a year. Do new stuff, seek higher playgrounds, that you’ll be proud of as you look back years from now.

The Way to the Indupit

We left Manila at around 12:30am and had a long ride amidst the battering rains outside. Trip took longer than expected since zero visibility welcomed us as we took the winding roads of Aritao by 7:30am. We arrived at Kayapa an hour later and the weather got better and that was a sigh of relief.

A quick breakfast at the public market and courtesy call at the police station before we proceeded with the trek by 9:45am. Although guides were still not with us since they are coming down from the mountain, we just agreed to meet somewhere along the trail. First leg of the trail is through some local houses while walking on cemented stairs and a few minutes later, pine forests welcomed us and so are the guides.

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First flat area after the initial leg of the trail
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Where will the scent of pine take you tonight?

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With Team Trip Ni Juan

The weather was a bit gloomy and dank, but thank god that it was not raining hard. The steepness are gradual on some parts and took us around 2hrs before we reached the Indupit Village, local kids joined us as we arrived. We decided to have our lunch from there and rest for a while.

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Picture, picture!

From Indupit Village, a wide road connects it down to the town proper for easy hauling of goods from village to village, and it is also a government project to make this part of the mountain accessible to vehicles.

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Gates like this are all over the area, made for grazing cows
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Sleep is for the weak

On the west is Mt. Samiento at 1730masl while the summit of Mt. Ugo is at the back, it showed up for a brief time before clouds started to engulf the whole place in white again. Still a long way to go.

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Chasing Ansipsip

After taking a brief rest, temperature started to drop down together with cold winds blowing from all directions. So we continued with the trek. We also happened to pass by Mt. Samiento (1730+) and took take 5’s every now and then.

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Who wouldn’t love dogs?
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Still no clearing

Almost three hours now on the trail, with nothing to see but fog and nothing to feel but cold winds and light rains. We reached the Ansipsip Waiting Shed near the Km. 4 marker and planned to rest, but instead we continued since stopping would mean cooling down and feeling the cold a little bit stinging than the usual.

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In their highest leaves, the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity, but they do not lose themselves

The Great Cordillera Traverse

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The silent hill
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Leave and get lost in the right direction, if that is what it takes

What led to the discovery of this mountain is due to two seperate accounts of plane crashes that happened in the past decades. First one happened in the late 1960’s where a passenger plane crashed at Sitio Kalaudan, and the second one took place some 200 yards from the southwest part of the summit, killing 50 passengers, on a fateful day of June 1987 as it was about to land at Loakan Airport in Baguio during a monsoon.

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Three more kilometers
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Head above the clouds
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Surreal landscapes at 4 in the afternoon
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A wild victreebell appeared!

We then reached the summit of Mt. Ugo by  5:00pm. It was also a relief to see the weather had been good to us upon reaching the peak, an afternoon sea of clouds appeared before us. Several provinces also came in full view.

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Brief period along the forest trail before the summit
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Garden of Ugo

This is dubbed as one of the great cordillera traverses followed by Mt. Napulauan and Mt. Amuyao. Mt. Ugo, being named as such, came from the Spanish word “Ugoan” or to “slit the throat” after the Headhunters or “Busols” took the head of a spanish secretary general as they protected their area from the invasion. But back in the days before it was named Ugo, it was first called Bundok Umag-aga (Mt. Umag-aga).

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Sea of clouds in the afternoon

How Far Can You Go?

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At 2150 meters above sea level

This is where the fun starts now: the traverse to Itogon. After some much needed rest, we made haste since night time is starting to befall on us. By 5:40pm we descended down. The steep trail composed of rolling terrains and ravines with pine trees made the trek more beautiful, seems like this side of the mountain came out from a fiction book. And as the dark night shrouded us, the group took a slower pace so that each can follow and no one will be left behind. We reached the Km. 10.5 marker by 7pm, while the Km. 4.5 by 9:20pm. Our endurance was tested largely by how far can each of us go, by how determined we are. And also our patience were tested big time. As we reached Km. 0 by 10:15pm. The great Agno River welcomed us, and passed over it via the Petican-Animal Hanging Bridge.

Thinking it was over was a great misconception, from here the Brgy. Hall of Tinongdan is somewhere located above the mountain sides and is still several kilometers from where we are. (read: basag tuhod)

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At long last, there you aree

We were really lying down on the concrete road just dreaming about the billion star kind of night upon having a brief break. But we still continued on and reached Tinongdan Brgy. Hall by 12 midnight and was welcomed with unlimited Kalinga Brewed Coffee. That was one for the bucketlist!. We got back at Manila safe and sound by 9am the following day.

Props to the Trip Ni Juan Crew, Sir Eros Agustin and Maria Rodas for making this climb possible.

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One with the clouds

Since this has been resounding for a while now, let me share my few cents. Whatever we choose, may it be a day hike or an overnight camp, both of it will produce impacts to the environment, and that is reality. Needless to say, be responsible and act your age, and just enjoy whatever you are doing. Camp if you must camp and wait for that glorious sunrise or test your limits and finish it in the shortest time possible, the thing is, just don’t brag about it and blow your own trumpets, the only competition here is with yourself. Maybe skip that posting of monumental pictures on social media groups of your amazing selfies/groupies and remind yourself: is this post helpful? will it benefit the reader or only the one who posted it by the number of likes? If yes, continue and spread the word, if no then you know the drill.

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Enjoy life, live in the moment, take risks, and carve that niche. 🙂

Budget and Itinerary

Mt. Ugo Day Hike Traverse
Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya – Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet

0030  – Departure from Manila
0730  – Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya
0830  – Arrival at Kayapa Town Proper
0845  – Register, breakfast
0945  – Start trek
1200  – Indupit Village, Lunch
1245  – Resume trek
1530  – Km. 4 marker, Ansipsip Waiting Shed
1700  – Mt. Ugo summit
1740  – Start descend to Itogon, Benguet
1900  – Km. 10.5 marker
2120  – Km. 4.5 marker
2215  – Km. 0 Brgy. Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet
           – walk to Tinongdan Brgy. Hall
0000  – Arrival at Brgy. Hall of Tinongdan
0200  – Take jeep to Tinongdan Police Station
0215  – Itogon Police Station, depart for Manila
0245  – ETD to Manila
0315  – Baguio City, early breakfast
0900  – Back to Manila

Budget:

Event: Dayhike/Overnight – 1500php-2500php
DIY:
Transportation:
Bus – 230php/Pax (Manila – Aritao)
Jeep – 1000php-2000php/20pax (Aritao – Kayapa)
        – 2500php (Baguio-Itogon-Baguio)
Fees:
-From Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya

-From Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet
• Registration Fee: 200php/pax
• Guide Fee: 500php/10pax/day
• Porter Fee: 500php/day (optional)

Total Damage: 1800php (2500php/safe budget)

Notes:
If starting from Itogon, Benguet:
– Take Baguio bound buses (e.g. Victory Liner), then from Baguio, rent jeepneys going to Tinongdan. Alternately, some mountaineers takes the taxi going to the jump off, rates range from 600php-800php.
– You can contact:
Brgy. Chairman Benjamin Medino  09082637134 / 09282890886 / 09398345655
Tourism Coordinator Norbert Pacio 09102508492
If starting from Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya:
– Take Nueva Vizcaya or Ifugao bound buses (e.g. Ohayami, Florida, Victory), alight at Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya and from there, you can catch jeepneys bound to Kayapa, or contact the Kayapa Tourism for them to pre-arrange your ride prior to the day of event
– You can contact:
Sir Alex – 09461978178
■ Water sources are only at Indupit Village and Domolpos Village, bring lots of water
■ Practice LNT Principles

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
-Helen Keller

Go, carve that niche,
Rex

Live the Moment – Baler, Aurora

Baler, Aurora Day Trip Series (Part 1)

Explore your options and go for the less chosen, less conventional one; that is when an adventure sparks up the inner wanderlust. It may sound real crazy, but having no option for long vacations, nor leaves from your regular job, a spur of the moment decision  made me pack my backpack with a day’s worth of provisions for travel. They say that the secret is balance, find that contrasting spot between work and what you enjoy and make it work from there.

The Mother Falls

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Market Day at Baler

A day trip at Baler has been logistically possible, many had done it before and now’s my time to do it myself, solo backpacker mode: ON. 11pm I already queued for a seat at the Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao for the 12 midnight trip, but the trip came in later than expected, by 1:00am the bus departed. Must’ve slept like a baby and I woke up by 5am somewhere in the mountain passes of Aurora, and two hours later, I arrived in Baler.

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Bucolic as it is

Prior to my arrival, I already contacted a local tourism guide before I rode the bus last night, he agreed to meet me by 7:30am, so I snagged a quick meal before meeting Kuya Michael. The time came and with no further ado, the tour started. First on the list is the Ditumabo Mother Falls located in San Luis, Aurora, it was a 30 minute early morning ride through provincial roads before reaching Brgy. Ditumabo. Landmark was a red bridge with a welcome sign then we turned left until we reached the parking area.

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Welcome to Ditumabo!

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We alighted and Kuya Michael also served as my guide as we trek up to the end of the river trail. It took us 30 minutes before the waterfall became a reality, the trek was rather easy since we passed by concrete sidewalks passing through a river that is fed by the falls and no steep inclines to be noted.

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River trekking to the Mother Falls
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Downstreams
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The so-called “Baby Falls” right next to the Mother

Definitely the summer season is in town but the downpour  from the 140 feet height surely was remarkable. Add up the cold and clear turquoise water flowing from is inviting to anyone who visits the place.

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5 more minutes.
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Ditumabo Mother Falls
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Let it rain, let it pour down
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The best will always be yet to come

The number of visitors continued to trickle in so I decided to continue the trip and left the Ditumabo Mother Falls by 9:00am.

The Millenium Tree

We were again back at the jump off point by 9:30am, and we proceeded to Brgy. Quirino in Maria Aurora to visit the famed Millenium Tree. Around 20 mins from Brgy. Ditumabo, is where the tree is located, and by 10am we were already at the area. Entrance fees are collected, but jolly old Kuya Michael has his ways and made me not to pay anything. So I spent a good 15 minutes looking around.

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Seems right out of a fantasy book, the Millenium Tree

Balete Tree or Strangler Fig, is a parasitic specie of tree that grows on top of another tree and eventually drains it out until it thrives on the nutrients the previous tree has. Stories tell that this tree had been here and is a sole witness of whatever transpired here for hundreds if not, thousands of years. A good number of people, 60 at the least shall be needed if tree hugs are to be made.

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You will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory
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Colossal!

The Search for the Perfect Swell

I immediately left the Ronquillo Eco Park and proceeded with my next destination before lunch time. Next on the list is Sabang Beach, almost half an hour before I reached the prime surf spot of Baler. I arrived by 10:40am and initially my plan is to take some surfing lessons before the afternoon. But it seems like the swells have subsided and waves are little to none, the perfect swell must’ve been lost and still on his way to Baler.

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Sabang Beach, Baler
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Seems like the swells have not visited for a while

Moving on, I rested for quite a while before we got back to Baler town proper where we had a good lunch consisted of Inihaw na Pusit, Tuna Sinigang and Pinakbet, all for 200php for 2pax!.

A Walk in the Past

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Baler Museum and its intricately made facade

Since our next destination is quite far, my guide went home to detach his sidecar and get another motorcycle so I could experience to drive my own habal-habal (for a fee). So he went home and I proceeded with some historical walk at the town plaza.

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Statue of Manuel Quezon at the center of the park

First on the list is Museo De Baler, where a number of artifacts are preserved. From the outside is the statue of Manuel Quezon sitting on his chair at the center of the park, and his presidential car licated on the right side that is displayed inside a glass house.

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Baler Town Plaza, where the instagrammable Baler signage is erected and is also where the municipal hall is located.

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The obelisk at the town plaza next to the signage
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Touristy. 🙂

The Church of Baler, San Luis Obispo De Tolosa, home to the 1899 Siege of Baler where a number of Filipino Soldiers died on this very area.

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Baler Church
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Baler Church’s Interior

The replica of Aurora Aragon’s house, wife of the late president Manuel Quezon, this is also where the probince got its name.

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The house of Maria Aragon

By 12:20pm, I did a final supply run for our snacks aboard my habal-habal ride and off we go!.

Baler, Aurora
Solo Daytrip Itinerary

0100  Departure from Cubao via Genesis Liner (450php/pax)
0700  Arrival at Baler, breakfast, meet guide
0730  Start Habal-Habal tour (800php/day)
0800  Brgy. Ditumabo, trek to Mother Falls (30php/entrance fee, 20php/parking fee)
0830  Ditumabo Mother Falls
0900  Trek back to jump-off point
0930  Back at jump-off, travel to Brgy. Quirino, Maria Aurora
1000  Millenium Tree
1015  Travel to Sabang Beach
1040  Sabang Beach
1100  Travel back to Baler town proper, lunch
1120  Baler Town, Lunch
1140  Baler town proper, visit Museo De Baler, Aurora Aragon House, Baler Church and Plaza.
1220  Travel to Dicasalarin Cove, Brgy. Zabali
1310  Dicasalarin Cove, visit Punta Encanto Cave and Lighthouse. (350php/pax entrance and parking fee)
1430  Back at the cottage, rest, tidy up
1520  Explore Dicasalarin Artists Longhouse
1545  Travel back to Diguisit
1615  Diguisit Beach, Dimadimalangat Islets, Diguisit Falls, Tromba Marina
1640  Diguisit Beach, Aniao Islet
1700  Travel to Baler Hanging Bridge
1730  Baler Hanging Bridge
1800  Baler Terminal, Dinner, tidy up
1840  Ride Van bound to Cabanatuan (230php/pax)
1930  ETD of Van
2300  Arrival at Cabanatuan Bus Terminal, take bus back to Manila (120php/pax)
0130  Manila

Budget:
Transportation: 800php
Fees:
Ditumabo 30php (Entrance Fee)
                   20php (Parking Fee)
Dicasalarin 300php (Entrance + Cottage Fee)
                    50php (Parking Fee)
Habal-Habal Tour 800php + 200php tip for Dicasalarin Cove

Total Damage:
Solo: 2200php/pax (Safe Budget: 2500php/pax)
3pax: 1600php/pax (Additional budget depends on arrangements with the tour guide)

Notes:
● From Cubao, you have three options:
– Take Genesis Liner Bus bound for Baler, trips start by 12mn, and bus schedule is on an hourly basis, travel time 6-7hrs
–  Take Joy Bus, the express coach of Genesis Liner, but costs 700php/way, travel time is 4-5hrs, no stop over, same schedule as the Genesis Regular Airconditioned buses
– Take ES Transport or Baliwag Transit Buses bound for Cabanatuan, then from Cabanatuan find Baler bound buses that starts their trip at 6am
● Manila bound Genesis Liner buses from Baler has last their last trip at 10am, if doing a daytrip, one can opt to take Cabanatuan bound vans at the Van Terminal behind the Public Market, last trip is at 7pm, then from Cabanatuan, ride Manila bound buses
● Tricycles can’t reach Dicasalarin Cove due to steep uphill roads, tour operators recommend to take single motorcycles/Habal-Habal, if you are in for an adventure, drive it yourself
● You can contact two of the local tourism guides of Baler for more info, I personally recommend their service:
Kuya Michael Dela Cruz – +639204365056
Kuya Wendell – +639099283851
● You can extend this Itinerary and travel to Casiguran, Aurora on Day 02, it is three hours away from Baler and is adjacent with Isabela Province

Reach for the Sky – Mt. Pulag (2926+)

MT. PULAG (AKIKI TRAIL)
Kabayan, Benguet
Major jump-off: Brgy. Doacan, Kabayan (Akiki)
LLA: 16°34’58″N 120°53’15″E, 2922 MASL
Hours to summit / Days required: 10-11 hours / 2-4 days
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 7/9, Trail class 3
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)
“Different roads all lead to the same destination” as the saying goes, but as a friend once coined, it can also be said as “Different trails all lead to the same summit”. It will be constantly one of the bucketlist entry of any individual who loves the outdoors: to climb Mt. Pulag. Now it will be our turn to cross it off on our lists.



Day 01, The Road to Kabayan

Travelling to Baguio which is 250+ kilometers from Manila was never easy as one must endure a 6-7 hour travel time, but I guess the new normal is that after work shift, this will be the only time to catch some sleep. Around 6:30am we arrived in Baguio City to transfer to the rented monster jeeps by our organizers, and by 7am we are now on our way to Kabayan, Benguet. Travel time is three hours at the most.

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By 9am we had a stop over at Jang-Jang’s canteen to have some breakfast and secure our packed lunch. Another interesting fact is that behind the canteen is the longest hanging bridge in the Benguet province so we did a little sidetrip.

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We resumed our jeepney ride by 10am, but little did we know that some of the participants failed to have their medical certificates, so we dropped by the municipal hospital and spent almost an hour before we arrived at the Mt. Pulag visitor center by 11am.

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Briefing and courtesy call at the DENR is required for any visitor who wishes to climb the summit of Mt. Pulag. We had our turn by 12noon and finished by 1pm, that was long I must admit.

The Akiki

From the visitor center the jump-off point of the Akiki Trail is at Duacan, Kabayan, Benguet and took us an hour of jeepney ride before we arrived at the Akiki Ranger Station.

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There are several trails leading to the summit of Mt. Pulag: Ambangeg (Celebrity Trail) due to only slight elevation gains and pleasant trails, Akiki (Killer Trail) due to the steepness and length of trail, Ambaguio and Tawangan (Death Trails) due to the steepness and far jump off points that starts at Lusod, Bokod, Benguet (Farthest municipality in Bokod) and Nueva Vizcaya respectively, another fact is that their forests are all limatik infested that makes it a little more deadly (and exciting). But today we chose the more popular trail, which is the Akiki to Ambangeg Trail.

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We then registered at the ranger station and had our final preparations, we then started the hike by 3pm. First part of the trail is a gradual one passing by mountain slopes and lush vegetation, and it took us 15 minutes before reaching the Ambagiyawan Shelter.

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Akiki, as the word suggests, is onomatopeic by origin, meaning it came from the bird calls often heard at the area, and it also a fact that Mt. Pulag is home to hundreds of species including endemic ones. Then as we continued the trek, we reached the Manenchen Burial cave after a good 45 minutes of walk, where skeletal remains of tribal ancestors are buried and as of today, displayed at wooden crates.

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After passing the burial cave the trail led to the Eddet Campsite by 4:20pm and we took a little rest before crossing the Eddet River via a steel hanging bridge. The cascades at the background as you are crossing is breathtaking, nevermind the steel bridge that shakes wildly at each step.

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From the river, this is where the trail became notorious.

The Marlboro Country

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The inclination of the trail got steeper by the minute. Pine trees are now all over the place and it is in a perpetual zigzagging mountain climb amidst the cold weather. We had to take brief rests every ten to twenty minutes, before continuing, it took us two hours before we reached the flat part of the trail, the Kadagwayan Campsite at 6:24pm.

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The sun started to sink below the horizon and the Marlboro Campsite is still far from imagining, so we continued with our flashlights on, inspite the light occasional rains and cold temperature. What recharged us is seeing multitudes of fireflies emerge from the bushes and trees around the trail, that scene was a magical one, and our cameras were no match against the pitch black darkness. Some things are best experienced with what the eyes can only see and not with what our cameras could capture, these moments are happening, live it.

The rain continued on for an hour until we reached the Marlboro Country, it was named as such due to the appearance of the mountain area that is consisted of golden brown colored hills and slopes. Drenched and chilling, that is how the experience got a little more challenging, so we set up our camps and had a quick dinner before calling it a night.

We woke up by 2am, temperature dropped real sharp and good thing our jackets kept us warm. The rain has subsided and as soon as we opened our tent fly open, lo and behold, the Milky Way. What a treat to start our day, there are thousands, and if not, millions of stars flocking the sky, the galactic core and nebulas have gathered in a play of lights amidst the cosmos, shooting stars passed by in a spectacular movement only nature could choreograph.

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Day 02, The Grasslands

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By 4am we started our trek again, unlimited assaults on encore. In high hopes to catch the grand sea of clouds contrasted by the sunrise that is experienced at the summit of Mt. Pulag, we made haste. After 45 minutes we are now at the Mossy Forest and taking brief breaks in betweens. But it took us an hour more before we reached the grasslands but the sun finally rose from the sky, no sunrise at the summit for us then. From here, scaling every inch all the way up to where we are is priceless, knowing that you worked hard for whatever lies at the end of the adventure, so we continued on.

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Parts of the cordillera mountains are now seen from the grasslands, and thinking that we are walking among grass is a misconception, they were dwarf bamboos all along!. Another 40 minutes before we reached the saddle camp and only one last assault before we reach the very summit.

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Rooftop 2926

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Knees are shaking, legs are trembling, as one friend cried out, but we kept on climbing that one final assault leading to the rooftop of Luzon. By 7am we were finally at the summit, 2926MASL (new height certified by NAMRIA) and the third highest in the country.

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Pulag came from the word “Pulog” or in the local tongue, “Kalbo” or “Bald” when translated due to the appearance of the summit with no other vegetation rather than dwarf bamboos that appears to be like golden rolling hills from afar. And indeed, the Playground of the Gods.

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The highest point divides three provinces at its peak, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet. And from here the Three Great Cordillera Mountains are seen, namely Mt. Ugo, Mt. Napulauan and Mt. Amuyao. The peaks of the 2nd (Mt. Tabayoc) and 3rd (Mt. Timbak) highest mountains in Luzon is also seen.

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There were no sea of clouds that day, but nature never did betray the heart that loved her, and the clouds around did a little dance and gave us little clouds as consolation. Then it soon vanished and became fog as it covered the summit area in a blanket of white.

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The Ambangeg

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By 9:22am, we descended down via the Ambangeg trail, the trek in here is pleasant, no steep inclines that hurts the knees and the spectacular views of golden hued slopes and what we saw kind of confirmed the issues that the National Park is facing.

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The trail is wide and really muddy and slippery at the least. Dwarf bamboos are being trampled by visitors in order for them to be comfortable in their climb, no mud on their branded shoes, that’s better. And as a result, the once single lane trail is now three, four, five and even six folds the original. The bamboos were there even before us and it  years to thrive and it only took seconds for us to destroy. The pathways are now laid with stones after passing by the trail markers, after an hour we reached Camp 2.

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After the quick rest the Montane Forest welcomed us, trees were also mossy and we got the chance to see the century tree that stands at the left side of the trail.

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Then another hour passed before we reached the Babadak Ranger Station. We were back at Baguio City by 6pm and reached Manila by 2am the following day. What an experience!

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Mt. Pulag will give you hundreds of reasons to climb its summit all over again, and we will definitely visit again and gain new experiences and make more memories.

Special mention to Sir Alex Pedron, Team 1, and the Kapsig Outdoors Team, for making this trip awesome.

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Budget and Itinerary

Mt. Pulag Akiki-Ambangeg Trail

Day 00
2200  – Meet up at Cubao
2230  – Departure to Baguio

Day 01
0630  – Arrival at Baguio, transfer to Monster Jeep
0700  – ETD to Bokod, Benguet
0900  – Jang-Jang’s Canteen, breakfast, buy packed lunch, sidetrip to longest hanging bridge
1000  – Depart for Bokod Hospital
1020  – Get Medical Certificate for hiking
1100  – Arrival at Mt. Pulag Visitor Center
1200  – Briefing before climb proper
1300  – End of briefing, travel to Doacan, Benguet
1440  – Arrival at Akiki jump-off point
1500  – Start trek
1515  – Ambagiyawan Shelter
1620  – Eddet campsite
1824  – Kadagwayan Campsite
1915  – Marlboro Country campsite, set up camp, dinner
2000  – Lights off

Day 02
0230  – Wake up call, milky way chasing
0400  – Resume trek
0445  – Mossy Forest
0600  – Grassland
0640  – Saddle Camp
0700  – Mt. Pulag summit
0922  – Start descent via Ambangeg Trail
1022  – Camp 2
1125  – Arrival at Ambangeg, Babadak Ranger Station
1500  – Departure to Baguio via Monster jeep
1600  – Arrival at Visitor center for certificates
1800  – Arrival at Baguio, depart for Manila

Day 03
0200 – Arrival at Manila

Budget:
Event: 2500php/pax – 3000php/pax
(Camping Provisions are excluded)

DIY:
Transportation:
Bus: 450php/pax (MLA-BAGUIO)
Monster Jeep: 5000php/20pax (BAGUIO-KABAYAN-BAGUIO)
Fees:
Guide Fee: 1800php/7pax
Reg. Fee (Visitor Center): 225php/pax
Reg. Fee (Akiki Ranger Station): 50php/pax
Porter Fee (Optional): 150php/kilo

Notes:

● No Reservation, No Entry Policy to all who wants to visit the National Park, prior arrangements must be done before the hike
● Medical Certificates are required, one must secure a copy prior to the climb and not during the climb if he/she wants to hike Mt. Pulag so as not to delay the itinerary. Moreover, this should be done out of respect to those in the group who has secured one prior to the event
● Weekends: Only day treks are allowed, camping is only allowed at the Babadak ranger station area ( for Ambangeg Trail)
● Weekdays: Camping is allowed at designated campsites
● Monster Jeeps are mandatory from Baguio and entry of private vehicles to the National Park is discouraged
● Toploading is not allowed from Baguio to Visitor Center, but can be done from the latter to the point of destination
● Restrooms and watersources are available along the trail:
Akiki – Eddet and Marlboro Country campsites
Ambangeg – Camp 2 and Saddle Camp
● Prepare necessary provisions for camping and subzero temperatures to avoid any untoward incidents such as Hypothermia and the likes
● Practice LNT Principles

 

 

 

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

– Susan Sontag

Go, carve that niche,
Rex

See With New Eyes – Mt. Batolusong (780+)

MT. BATOLUSONG (MAPATAG & SUSONG DALAGA)

Tanay, Rizal
Major jumpoff: Brgy. San Andres, Tanay, Rizal*
LLA: 645 MASL / 780 MASL
Days required / Hours to destination: 1 day /1.5h (Mapatag); 3-4 (Susong Dalaga Peak)
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Grassland slopes, views of Laguna, Rizal, and Quezon
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

The thing with night treks is that you won’t be able to see what lies ahead of you, for it is dark, but as the easy morning dawns on you the following day, you’ll see with new, better eyes.

For the Night is Dark and Full of Frogs

It was really late in the afternoon when we arrived in Cubao to catch the Cogeo bound jeeps. Though the jeepney ride was all good, one can still opt to take the UV express vans which is way more faster. Light rains welcomed us as we arrived at Cogeo Gate 2 after almost an hour of travel. We made some final supply run for our dinner before we got to the Mall of Antipolo which is on the right side after passing Jollibee. Arriving at the far end of the Mall is where Sampaloc bound jeeps are located, last trip is usually at 7pm.

Almost an hour of jeepney ride along the winding roads of Tanay before we alighted at the Batangasan/San Andres Arch. From here we took another tricycle ride going to Brgy. San Andres Tourism, the ride took 15mins. Upon arrival we were received by Kuya Derek, the tourism officer, we paid for the corresponding fees and met with our guide and off we go.

The trek started by 8:15pm, we initially passed by the San Andres community before we hit the rice fields. Frogs were everywhere and be careful not to step on them by chance since it is dark. But the highlight of the walk is the lone tree at the center of the paddy that is flocked by fireflies, the tree is in ever glow and it was really uhm ..magical (it really is).

Duhatan Ridge

After 30 minutes we arrived at the first water source and is also where the incline of the mountain increases. The trek was only gradual and again took us another 15minutes before we arrived at the last water source, it was all foggy up in there. The last assault will only be 5 minutes before we reached the Duhatan Ridge campsite. What surprised us is that the sea of clouds is now present and is just waiting for the sun to touch its billowing sea of cotton.

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We set up our camp and prepared our dinner before we called it a night.

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We woke up real early just to catch the milky way but to no avail, the moon was beaming high up in the horizon that the band was not visible. We had our campsite to ourselves so we had an early morning coffee and the clouds are now thicker and flowing than ever.

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We had been to Mt. Pulag just last week but we failed to witness the sea of clouds at the rooftop of Luzon, but who knows that you don’t really have to go far enough just to witness such a phenomenon when all along Rizal province has it all for you.

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Islands in the Sky

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Around 6:20am we started our trek to the Rangyas Peak, we reached the Mapatag Plateau by 6:55am and the clouds were like the sea, and the once mountain tops became islands floating in this sea of flowing white.

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Batolusong came from two words, “Bato” and “Lusong”, back in the days the mountain is called Batonglusong because of the presence of a rock formation near the river that resembles that of  a stone rice mortar.

Rangyas Peak

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After a little rest at the Mapatag Plateau we then continued at the Rangyas Peak. And we were back at our campsite by 7:30am.

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We descended back after breaking camp and did a little sidetrip at an underwater cave called the Sangab Cave that is around 20mins from the jump-off.

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We got back at the tourism hut by 9:00am and prepared for our next mountain. The Mt. Paliparan Circuit.

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Budget and Itinerary:

Mt. Batolusong/Duhatan Ridge/Mapatag Plateau/Rangyas Peak – Overnight Camp

Day 01
1735  – Cubao take jeep/fx bound to Cogeo Gate 2 (26php(jeep)/46php(fx)- per pax)
1835  – Arrival at Cogeo Gate 2, supply run, take jeep bound to Sampaloc (42php/pax – terminal located at Mall of Antipolo)
1900  – ETD to Sampaloc
1945  – Alight at Batangasan (Brgy. San Andres Arch), take tricycle to Batolusong Tourism (120-100php per trip/3-5pax)
2000  – Register, secure guide
●500php – dayhike, 1250php – overnight
●20php – duhatan ridge + 20php – rangyas peak
2015  – Start trek
2045  – 1st water source
2100  – 2nd water source
2115  – Arrival at Duhatan Ridge

Day 02
0330  – Wake up, Catch Milky Way, Sea of Clouds, Sunrise
0620  – Start trek to Rangyas Peak
0640  – Tibag
0655  – Mapatag Plateau
0705  – Arrival at Rangyas Peak
0730  – Back at Duhatan Ridge
0750  – Campout, start descent
0847  – Arrival Sangab Cave
0900  – San Andres Tourism Office
0930  – Take tricycle back to Highway
– Alternately take tricycle to Brgy. Cuyambay if it will be twihiked with Mt. Paliparan on Day 02(200php/trip)

Budget for 3pax:
Transportation: 216php/pax
Fees: 440php/pax

Total Damage: 656php/pax (safe budget: 800php/pax)

Notes:
• San Andres Tourism Officer – Sir Derek ( +639360100628)
• Tourism is open 24/7, guide is mandatory.
• Guides are available at the tourism hut, you can not get a specific person to guide you since they are queued.
• For more info you can also contact our guide Kuya Lito Aran (+639360100042)

• Cogeo bound jeeps pass by every 30mins, and one can try Pico De Pino’s Lomi and many more.

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” – Alan Keightley

Go, carve that niche,
Rex