Category Archives: ZAMBALES

The Thrill of the Trail – Mt. Pinatubo (Sapang Uwak – Delta V)

Mt. Pinatubo (1760+MASL)
Sapang Uwak – Delta V Extended Dayhike

Major Jump-off Point: Brgy. Pidpid, Porac, Pampanga
Coordinates: 15°8’35″N, 120°20’54″E, 1468MASL
Days Required/Hours to Crater: 1-2days, 9-10hrs
Specs: Major Climb, 8/9, Trail Class 1-3


I have always been fascinated with the stories and documentaries of the historic eruption of the Pinatubo Volcano. And that one day, I will visit whatever is left of this volcano and witness this beautiful disaster for my own eyes to see. And that day came eventually.

The Disaster

Mt. Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano that is nestled at the Cabusilan Mountain Range which is the tripoint of the provinces of Pampanga, Zambales, and Tarlac, located 55miles northwest of the capital city of Manila. It was home to thousands of indigenous tribes of Aetas who sought refuge in its tropical forests and made a living with its rich natural resources during the Spanish conquest.

It laid dormant for over half a century, but on that fateful day of June 15, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted in its mightiest and most frightening form yet. Spewing out cubic kilometers of ashes and pyroclastic materials that ravaged the surrounding communities and municipalities in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Successful predictions by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) at the onset of this cataclysmic eruption lessened the number of fatalities, by evacuating tens of thousands of people, saving lives that may have been gone to the ashes. 

But the aftermath still left 847 dead, hundreds missing, thousands displaced by the lahar flow, cost millions of pesos of damage to infrastractures and means of livelihood, and billions of pesos for the recovery period. What made this eruption more devastating is the arrival of typhoon Diding several days after, that unleashed floods with lethal mixes of ash, tephra, streams of pyroclastic materials and rocks that remobilized the lahar deposits to the mourning communities, inflicting again damage to what’s left in the vast plains of this three provinces.

This Plinian/ Ultraplinian eruption produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. It ejected vast quantities of materials into the stratosphere including millions of tonnes of Sulfuric Dioxide that created a sulfuric acid haze, subsequent effects of it were the global cooling, reducing worldwide temperature by 0.9°Fahrenheit, but also depleted the ozone layer substantially from years 1991-93.

The Long Walk to Mt. Mcdonald

I signed up for the Mt. Pinatubo Sapang Uwak to Delta-V day hike organized by Sir Jherry Guiao, this climb was the first of its kind as no group has ever attempted a day hike that traverses the volcano the other way around aside from the traditional Delta-V to Sapang Uwak hike. From Manila, it took us almost two hours before we reached the Porac Exit of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). From the exit, the surroundings were dank and dark, only tall grasses surrounded the area, the once paved roads became rough. We happened to pass by two military check points asking for our permit and identification cards before we finally reached the community of Sapang Uwak. At the end of the once again paved road, our service came to a halt, with no further ado, we started the very early morning trek at two in the morning.

The trail was wide open on a series of uphills and downhills, fog and pitch black darkness enveloped the whole team with only our headlamps and flashlights as source of light. Everything was a spot-on blur with the following four hours with no one talking, surely everyone got a little exhausted with this non-stop walk, but this is all just a warm-up, I told myself.

As the sun slowly rose, so does the surroundings came into life. The once grass covered trail with nothing to see turned into slopes and valleys teeming with life.

 Sir Jherry started to point out several other mountains and peaks that has not been fully explored by the city people, some of what he mentioned was the Mt. Babatibat, Mt. Siang-Kabayo, Mt. Bale-Hangin and the formidable looking Mt. Negron and its knife edged ridges that is said to be a hunting ground for wild boars and where rare and endemic flora and fauna still thrives due to its obscurity from the modern man.

An hour and a half passed, through meandering and really long ridge walks, we have finally arrived at Mt. Mcdonald by 7:30 in the morning and rested for a while.

 From afar, the jagged peaks of the Pinatubo Volcano, seemingly resembling the fangs of that of a wild beast, intimidated us a lot that made the hike more exciting than ever. 


The Rebirth

After that much needed rest, we then continued down Mt. Mcdonald to reach the much awaited crater rim. But this is where the challenge really started.


The way down was a lot steeper than what I expected, the trail was an almost 90 degree wall with paths that is just as wide as a ruler, one wrong step, and voila.


After that steep descent, boulders and rocks welcomed us, then we eventually covered the gap that seperates Mt. Pinatubo from Mt. Mcdonald. From the foot of the volcano, the crater rim is just a stone throw away.

But the ascent trail proved to be more tricky since there are hardly any trails leading to the crater summit due to the alternating patches of boulders and grasses, that it became really hard to tell which one are the hole gaps and which one is safe to put your weight upon. 

After two hours and a half of descent then ascent, the final leg proved to be more breath taking than ever, from that point, just a few meters away from the crater, the surrounding valleys and mountains inside the Cabusilan Range was like taken straight out of a fiction book. Isla Nublar, Michael Crichton’s fictional Central American island of the Jurrasic Park came into mind, as I was expecting dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes grazing this vast fields. I was day dreaming that time, the heat of the sun was bearable due to the cool breeze. But I continued on.


All things must come to an end, but after all of this, there is rebirth, to a more beautiful, stronger, and a more resilient one. Mt. Pinatubo proved this into reality. 

Just a few more steps, I felt an even more strong surge of wind signalling that I am coming closer to the crater, and that a wide panoramic space awaits me on that steep edge. Then as I set my eyes upon the wholeness of the crater, I was simply struck in awe. I was cursing and cussing at that same catatonic moment, and that everything that came out of my mouth is still not enough to express what I felt during that moment.

After what seemed like to be a split second eternity, everything before my own eyes is still hard to digest. All that hours of endless walk paid off, big time, even more than that. This, I should admit, is one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen to date. Definitely, this is a beautiful kind of rebirth, the one that leaves a lasting memory of what it feels like to be surprised in the most unconventional way, but still leaves you speechless everytime it crosses your mind. 

A kind of lasting story that is worth telling, like that kind of lasting love that is worth keeping, and like of that of a lasting impression that is hard to erase.

The jagged peaks that seemed to be the crowning glory of this volcanic edifice surrounded the almost triangular Pinatubo lake, spanning 2.7km wide, that is painted in hues of emerald. The crater rim is heavily eroded, and from this viewpoint, one should exercise caution as the edges seem to be fragile that you’ll plunge down to your death on a little mishap. 

The gently sloping apron coated in lahar and hardened lava, rising just 200 meters above the surrounding ancient volcanic relics hides the volcano from the lowlands.

The Thrill of the Delta V

But it is still mandatory to come down even though we’re still in a state of euphoria. The journey is still halfway from over so we have to push through with the Delta-V. By 12noon, we descended down to a new trail since the traditonal trail still needs some bush whacking after the typhoon months. It took us more than an hour to finish the Patal Mai, that is mostly composed of cramped up mountain walls on both sides and boulders of all shapes and sizes as trails covered in moss and vegetation. 


We reached the infamous Delta-V river after several minutes more, and by 2:00pm, we reached the Pinatubo Twin Falls. The twin cascade is tucked inside the mountain where cool water flows down into a gentle stream. We took a quick dip just to relax our sore and tired muscles. 

Then just a little more trek down, is where the Apu Malyari Falls is located, a single flowing waterfalls plunging down to an estimated 30 meter drop with the rock wall that is symmetrically and peculiarly tucked side by side.


Much of the view is covered in myriads of curious rock formations of great scales. The whole trek was like walking into a hotel corridor, walls on each side and a carpet on the center. But this time, the walls are great volcanic edifices, and the carpet is that of the raging river flowing upon large rocks and bordered by fine lahar sand that keeps on being stuck inside our shoes that hurts the sole even more.

It was a series of river crossings, some of which involves wading over waist high river water. The night eventually caught up on us, and the trek even became more dangerous with the swelling of the river as the rain fell by dusk. The long corridor-like walk brought my spirits down as my food provisions are thinning down to almost zero, our flashlight and batteries are about to die anytime soon. My companion Ms. Anna was nursing a sprained ankle, and not much of the medicine she took had any effect and eventually slowed her down as the pain became increasingly unbearable. 

We reached the Bahay na Bato by 7:30pm, we then again waded into waist deep river water in pitch black darkness. Then that is where the large boulder with raging river waters as deep as several meters flowed into each side. Only way to get down is through ropes brought by Sir Jherry that we carefully used to go down. One wrong move again and two raging rivers with mud waters on each sides awaits. (RIP to the headlamps swallowed by the river during that night)

Everything again, just like the morning walk was a blur, I was on auto-pilot mode that time. We did not managed to reach the end of the trail nor can our lead locate the shortcut that involved us going about three times up and down several mini waterfalls to the Aeta Community where we can spend the night to rest. Everybody was downright exhausted, that we decided to go back to the highest lahar riverbank that we can find on our way to set up our emergency camp by 10:15pm. We were traversing the Delta-V trail for several hours now that hope ran out and only daylight can solve our problems.

The Pinatubo Experience

Morning came, the vast stone walled corridor, and the gleaming river bank got illuminated again by the morning light clearing things out. I failed to bring out provisions for e-camps since this is just a dayhike, a thing that I will always avoid on my next hikes. I slept on large rocks with my poncho and a small blanket that Ms. Anna shared as my source of heat against the really cold night that made me shiver. Ms. Anna felt relieved with her sprain after a not so good night sleep, and we were again as strong as the day before but little more famished than the usual. 

The short-cut that we can’t locate the night before came into being, as it was hidden beneath a curtain of vines and plants. Upon reaching the top, it took us about two more hours before we reached the Aeta Community where they received us with warm smiles and some fruits to eat. 

Then from the small community we then got back to the Mt. Dorst junction that also happens to be the Sapang Uwak trail. We saw the grand Miyamit Falls from the top of this ridge filled with “Mirasol” or Sunflowers. And again it took us an hour to reach the jump-off point where our van was parked, this is one of the most hardest extended day hikes that I’ve been into. Sir Jherry, with no sign of exhaustion on his face asked a guy with his motorcycle to buy us something to eat from the community below. 

Mt. Arayat loomed faintly that day from where we were standing. Recounting the experiences from the past day, it was hard and rewarding all the same, the beautiful disaster proved to be an experience of a lifetime.  We got down to the Alviera Land by noon time where we had ourselves cleaned, and then had a fun post climb buffet in San Fernando, Pampanga. And the rest was history.

*This was the first attempt to hike Mt. Pinatubo in a day via Sapang Uwak to Delta-V Trail. (No one attempted to do this again as of this writing, cause it was plainly crazy and stupid.)


NOTES:

● Permits from the local municipality of Porac is needed before doing any hike in the mountains of Cabusilan. Security is strictly observed as you will be passing by 2 checkpoints that asks for your identification cards and permit to climb.

● There are hardly any water sources in the Sapang Uwak Trail going to Mt. Mcdonald, No tree cover as well and prepare for the almost 17km long trek to the campsite. Start early before the sun catches up on you.

● The Delta-V trail is the one with the most number of watersources and waterfalls (and hardest as well). But never attempt to take this route during the night, since river crossings and bouldering as such will be your only way out through this trail. Wear appropriate Hydro Hiking/Mesh shoes for a more comfortable trek.

● If doing a day hike, make sure you have the necessary provisions for inclement weather conditions, emergency camps, and other unexpected circumstances such as accidents/injuries. A day hike will take you an average of 20hrs depending on the pacing of the team so be prepared accordingly.

● There are four (4) known trails of Mt. Pinatubo, first is the most visited and easiest, the Sta. Juliana Jump-off point in Capas, Tarlac, Second is the Delta-V trail, third is the Sapang Uwak or CM50 Trail that is both located in Porac, Pampanga, and fourth is the recently explored trail coming from San Marcelino, Zambales.

● Always practice the LNT (Leave No Trace) Principles, minimize impacts to the environment.

How To Get There:

● Via Commute: Take any bus plying the Tarlac or any northbound route that passes by the Dau Terminal. From Dau Terminal, there are jeepneys going to Angeles, alight at the Nepo Mart where there are tricycles that can take you to the Sapang Uwak jump-off. 

● Via Private Transportation: Take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) route and exit at Porac, Pampanga, turn right at the Alviera Land, then right again at the Tunnel then turn left until you reach the first check-point of Sapang Uwak.

Budget and Itinerary:

Mt. Pinatubo (1760+MASL)
Sapang Uwak – Delta V Extended Dayhike

Day 00
0000 Depart from Manila

Day 01
0145 Arrival at Sapang Uwak Trail Head
0215 Start Trek
0600 Last Water Source
0730 Arrival at Mt. Mcdo Campsite, breakfast
0830 Resume trek
1100 Mt. Pinatubo Crater Summit (1468+MASL)
1140 Start Descent
1300 Patal Mai
1600 Pinatubo Twin Falls
1700 Apo Malyari Falls
1930 Bahay na Bato
2215 Delta V E-campsite

Day 02
0600 Resume Trek
0800 Aeta Tribal Settlement
0900 Mt. Dorst Junction to Sapang Uwak Trail
1000 Jump-off Point
1200 Porac, Pampanga, Tidy-up
1400 Bale Kapampangan, Late Lunch
1600 Back at Manila

Total Damage: 1,100.00php registration fee for the event organized by Sir Jherry Guiao (Reg. Fee comes with a free post climb buffet!)


“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

– Nelson Mandela


Go, Carve That Niche,

Rex

SNAPSHOT: Bonifacio Ridge

Anyone who has reached Mt. Balingkilat definitely saw this meandering almost knife-edged ridge at the right side before the last assault going to the summit. Connecting it to Mt. Mabanban and Mt. Pundaquit, Bonifacio Ridge, named after Bonifacio Day, was recently explored and was done as a dayhike on that day traversing down to San Antonio, Zambales.

How To Get There:

● From Manila, one can take an Olongapo bound Victory Liner Bus at its Caloocan or Cubao Bus Terminal (Travel Time is 3-4hrs).

● Upon arrival at Olongapo City, arrange for jeepneys and guides beforehand to take you to the Sitio Cawag Resettlement jump-off point and make sure to drop by the Subic Police Station for the courtesy call. (Travel time 1hr)

● This is done as a Mt. Balingkilat approach descending down to the Bonifacio Ridge before reaching Mt. Mabanban down to Mt. Pundaquit.

SNAPSHOT: Mt. Cinco Picos

Usually called as “Tatlong Tirad” by the locals, it is now collectively touted as Mt. Cinco Picos, its name was derived from the Spanish word ‘cinco picos’ meaning “five peaks”, but as of writing the mountain has seven peaks that can be explored. Once a training ground for US Servicemen in the now defunct Subic Naval Base, the mountain is now gaining popularity as a part of the Cawag Pentalogy, or the traverse down to the Silanguin Cove.

How To Get There:

● From Manila, one can take an Olongapo bound Victory Liner Bus at its Caloocan or Cubao Bus Terminal (Travel Time is 3-4hrs).

● Upon arrival at Olongapo City, arrange for jeepneys and guides beforehand to take you to the Sitio Cawag Resettlement jump-off point and make sure to drop by the Subic Police Station for the courtesy call. (Travel time 1hr)

● Trek time is around 6-7hrs until the third peak.

SNAPSHOT: Mt. Pinatubo Delta V

Towering at 1480 meters above sea level, it is famous for its Plinian/ Ultraplinian eruption on June 15, 1991, historically the second most cataclysmic volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Mt. Pinatubo remains to be one of the most active stratovolcano in the country. Located inside the Cabusilan Mountain Range,  it lies near the tripoint of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga.

How To Get There:

● Take any Bus that will pass by Dau, Pampanga and alight at the Mabalacat Bus Terminal. Travel time 1-1.5hrs depending on traffic conditions

● Charter a Jeepney that will take you to the Porac, Pampanga jump-off point, which is at the Alviera Sandbox Park

● Make sure to secure a permit beforehand since entry at the area is strict and several checkpoints will be present upon reaching Sapang Uwak
Full Article Here:

Inside Out – Nagsasa Cove/ Capones Island

For the second time around, we are again at Nagsasa Cove. Following the exhausting trek up and down Mt. Balingkilat, we immediately rented a hut in one of the camps at the cove. We paid around 400php for an overnight stay including the pitching fee at the place with free use of bathroom and kitchen.

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It takes time and effort to get to know and understand. And when it does, you'll know that it was worth it

Paniki-zoned

We spent the rest of the afternoon letting our tired souls doze off for hours before we prepared our dinner. Night came and we had bonfire by the shore waiting for the peak of the Quarantids Meteor Shower while learning some basics about the constellations. Eventually, shooting stars came into sight from time to time but sometimes it is just bats whom we thought are also meteors, paniki-zoned at the least, and we called it a night.

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Away from everything, campfires bring out stories from your childhood you'd never thought would come back to life

The next morning, we broke camp and climbed the nearest hill to witness once again Nagsasa in her serene wholeness, isn’t she such a beauty?.

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But this is just another short affair with the cove. We descended down and prepared for our next destination. Our contact boat arrived by 10:30am and departed from place.

Capones Island

The last time we’ve been to Nagsasa, we failed to visit the neighboring islands due to bad weather, and this time, there’s no stopping us.

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Leaving Nagsasa for Capones

After an hour of boat ride, we arrived at Capones Island, which looks like an alligator from afar. The tide was so low that the boats can’t dock at the shore near the lighthouse since rocks will be damaging their hulls. The only choice is to swim going to the shore or to dock at the far end of the island and trek to the lighthouse.
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We chose the latter, after docking into the shore, we ate our prepared lunch first. Then off we go. The view was much more better when trekking than going directly into the lighthouse. It took us some couple of wrong trails to the beacon that it took us around an hour before finally reaching it after some exploration climb at the least.
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The other side of Capones Island

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Dilapidated, smoldering, and vintage. That is how the lighthouse greeted us. With the eerie vibe around, camping in here during the night would really be on our bucketlists.
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After spending some time at the top of the solar powered beacon, we trekked back to the shore and took another boat ride going to Camara Island, but the waves are not permitting that our engine stopped at the middle of the sea. We just went back to Pundaquit rather than gambling our chances of seeing Camara upclose.

Capping of the 2-day adventure is a quick visit to the Santos’ residence where they served us  with Chicken Adobo in Pinakurat, Yellow Fin Tuna Sinigang and Zambales Mangoes.

ITINERARY AND BUDGET
(As part of the Mt. Balingkilat traverse Nagsasa, here is the same itinerary.)

Day0
2200  Departure from Caloocan via Victory Liner (221php/pax)

Day 1
0030  Arrival at Subic Police Station, register
0200  Take tricycle to Sitio Cawag (300php/trip)
0300  Arrival at Sitio Cawag, meet guide, register (900php/5pax for traverse)
0330  Start trek
4300  Kawayanan, last water source
0630  Campsite, rest
0730  Mt. Balingkilat summit, breakfast
0845  Descend to Nagsasa Cove
1230  Arrival at Nagsasa cove
1400  Set camp, rest, free time (400php/cottage, free use of bathroom)
2300  Lights out

Day 2
0700  Wake up, breakfast, break camp
0740  Climb nearest hill (20php/pax, entrance fee)
0800  Highest point
0930  Back at campsite, tidy up, wait for passenger boat (1200php/5pax)
1030  Departure to Capones Island
1130  Arrival at Capones Island, lunch
1200  Start trek to lighthouse
1300  Lighthouse
1330  Ascend back
1430  Back at Pundaquit, rest, tidy up, take tricycle to San Antonio highway (60php/pax)
1700  Take bus going back to Manila (250php/pax)

Expenses:
(budget for 3pax)
Transportation: 1031php
Fees: 453php
Food: 300php

Total Damage: 1784php/pax

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so keep rolling under the stars.
– Jack Kerouac

Go, Carve That Niche,
Rex

Scorch Trials – Mt. Balingkilat (1100+)

Mt. Balingkilat Traverse to Nagsasa Cove
Subic, Zambales
Jumpoff: Sitio Cawag Settlement, Subic Town
LLA: 14.89 N, 120.11 E (est.), 1100 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 4-6 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 1-4
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

It was supposedly a Timbak-Tabayoc climb over the weekend, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the event was cancelled and we ought to proceed with Plan B.

Since another group from the Timbak-Tabayoc climb wouldn’t let the coming days become climbless, they invited our group to do a Cawag Quadrilogy. But we are sure that we can’t finish a quad on a summer month so we opted to take the Balingkilat-Nagsasa traverse.

The Resettlement

We took the 10pm trip to Zambales and alighted at the Subic Police Station after 2 hours and a half. We then proceeded for a courtesy call at the station and had our pictures taken as well as sign the letter of intent that we submitted. By 2am we were assisted by the police officers aboard our tricycles and off we go. The tricycle ride took around an hour before we got into the far flung resettlement area of Sitio Cawag. It was surely pitch black and the sky was covered with billions of stars.

We met-up with our guides and registered. Some final preparations and we started the trek by 3:30am. The first leg of the trail was on an extensive grass plains without any trees and the dim trek lasted for an hour before we reached the Kawayanan: the last water source before the Balingkilat assault.

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About an hour on the never ending assault, light started to break out from the horizon and the grass trail is now illuminated that made the trek easier. Mt. Cinco Picos is now visible at the far end of the mountain range.

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Oh, Sunrise

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We continued for another hour until we reached the campsite, had our breakfast as the sun rays lighted up the rest of Subic Bay coastline and surrounding Zambales plains and also, Mt. Pinatubo. Balingkilat came from the local Aeta language meaning “Bundok ng Kidlat” (Mountain of Thunder).

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By 7:30am we have finally reached the summit of Mt. Balingkilat at 1100 MASL and the view will make you utterly speechless. The South China Sea Is now embraced by the San Antonio coves, namely: Anawangin, Talisayen, Nagsasa, and Silanguin.

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The top of the mountain is visibly interconnected via a seemingly knife-edged slopes with all the mountains around such as Dayungan, Bira-Bira, Nagsasa, and Cinco Picos.

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AsdfghjINETlkl!@%$!

Since the sun started to heat things up, we then continued on our traverse down to Nagsasa Cove, which according to our guide, Kuya Joseph, will take 7hours more. While our friends at the other group descended down first to Mt. Dayungan for their quadrilogy.

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This is where things started heating up. It was around 10am when we are now at the very steep slopes of the mountain, loose soil and just rocks. There’s no tree cover to protect us from the sun and the our water supply won’t last long if this kind of descend will continue.

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We opted to hike down real fast but very careful on our steps. It was around 11am when we started to run out of water, with the sun going in berserk mode. The only comfort we got is to lie down on the dirt so that tall grasses provide shade for a while. It was a scorch trial indeed (read: I am seeing things) that a water source will be the best thing we are looking forward to. As we got down from the final steep areas of the mountain, the cove looks still far enough, and a massive plain of nothing but cogon grass greeted us with a warm (really warm) welcome.

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By 12 noon we were just too exhausted, but luckily a water source is now within our reach and as soon as we got our hands into the water, we were like kids delightfully seeing a pool for the first time. We arrived at the Nagsasa Cove by 12:30pm.

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ITINERARY AND BUDGET
Day0
2200  Departure from Caloocan via Victory Liner (221php/pax)Day 1
0030  Arrival at Subic Police Station, register
0200  Take tricycle to Sitio Cawag (300php/trip)
0300  Arrival at Sitio Cawag, meet guide, register (900php/5pax for traverse)
0330  Start trek
4300  Kawayanan, last water source
0630  Campsite, rest
0730  Mt. Balingkilat summit, breakfast
0845  Descend to Nagsasa Cove
1230  Arrival at Nagsasa cove
1400  Set camp, rest, free time (400php/cottage, free use of bathroom)
2300  Lights out

Day 2
0700  Wake up, breakfast, break camp
0740  Climb nearest hill (20php/pax, entrance fee)
0800  Highest point
0930  Back at campsite, tidy up, wait for passenger boat (1200php/5pax)
1030  Departure to Capones Island
1130  Arrival at Capones Island, lunch
1200  Start trek to lighthouse
1300  Lighthouse
1330  Ascend back
1430  Back at Pundaquit, rest, tidy up, take tricycle to San Antonio highway (60php/pax)
1700  Take bus going back to Manila (250php/pax)

Expenses:
(budget for 3pax)
Transportation: 1031php
Fees: 453php
Food: 300php

Total Damage: 1784php/pax

Notes:
• Kapitan Juanito Balosbalos (0999-549-4187)
• Guide: Kuya Joseph (0921-273-4187)
– A letter of intent is needed upon arrival at the Subic Police Station, and it is advisable to give them a call as well as the guides at Cawag to make sure that they will be meeting you upon arrival at the area.
– There are only two water source at Mt. Balingkilat during dry months, one is at Kawayanan and the second at the foot of the mountain going to Nagsasa.
– Signal is sporadic at the ascent and none at the traverse side going to the cove.
– Make sure to contact a boat service if you are not planning to go back hiking, as I have said, no signal at the cove.
– Start really early, the best time to climb the San Antonio Coastal Mountains is during night time.

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it’s lethal.
– Paulo Coelho

Go, carve that niche,
Rex

Keeping It Real – Mt. Tapulao (2037+)

MT. TAPULAO
Palauig, Zambales
Major jump-off: Sitio Dampay, Brgy. Dampay-Salaza, Palauig
LLA: 15.4833 N, 120.1166 E, 2037 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 6-12 hours
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Pine forests, views of West Philippine Sea
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

The mountain is quite a buzz whenever someone tells their tale and posts a picture of it on the internet. To some just another mountain, but to those who have summited it; they deserve a slow triumphant scoring of jubilant music. And we began to ask why?.

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The High Peak

Mt. Tapulao is one of the tallest peaks in the Zambales mountain range and is at 2037 meters above sea level, followed by the Mt. Sutot which is still not recognized and whose elevation is still not known.  It is regarded as the high peak and one of the longest mountain trails in Luzon due to its starting elevation of 60 meters and its endless rocky trail which is at 18km.

 

 

 

Starting The Endless

We took the earliest Victory Liner bus bound to Sta. Cruz, Zambales at 12 midnight. After 5hrs and some good sleep we alighted at a pitch dark stretch of a highway at Brgy. Dampay at Palauig, Zambales. Man, the temperature is definitely chilly as we waited for a tricycle under the roof of a billion star covered sky. We then rode a tricycle that goes to Sitio Salaza, travel time is 30 minutes. Upon arrival at the registration hall before 6am, we were welcomed by Ms. Eliza, the tourism officer, we then registered and secured our guide. Some final preparations and off we go.
A little 5min walk from the hall is where the trail starts and without further ado, the rocky trail started.

The ascent is only gradual and there are no tree covering all throughout, and this lasted for almost three hours before we reached the 1st water source at Km.6. We are now almost at 30% of the journey on this long and winding and rocky trail, got a little tired as we had our fourth take 5min rest.

Usually our dayhikes only last for 2 to 3hrs but on this one, we prepared for the 12hr hike to the campsite based on other people’s experience, and focused on the fact that we are still 9hrs away from the campsite. (read: hingal kabayo) And so we continued.

A little sharing of trail food and good music at a minimum volume will keep you from getting bored on this unlimited ascent. As the rocky trail continues on and on, the conversations become lesser and lesser. And less than three hours on the now steeper part of the trail, we heard voices.

Knee-vermind!

As we neared the 2nd water source at Km. 10, a group of bubbly girls welcomed us, and they just finished having lunch and is now preparing for their ascent on their second day. Indeed, seeing people on the trail of Mt. Tapulao gives you a little boost.

The weather is now cooler than before, and views are now becoming splendid. But the rocky trail continued on and on and is somewhat putting our morale on a downlow.

But things suddenly changed as we kept on walking, pine trees are now all over. Who taught that a piece of Baguio exists on this mountain standing at the heart of Zambales?. They were the local Sumatran Pine Trees that thrives on cool weather, aside from it, some mounds of chromite can be seen along the trail. This is an evident reason why the trail of Mt. Tapulao is like this, rocky and wide. This is due to extensive mining operations back in the days, where harvesting of chromite near its peak is their business and is brought down by heavy machineries down to the lowlands.

Our knees, aside from stiff legs and back muscles, are now sore that after two hours from the last water source, we decided to take our lunch and rest for eternity, I mean for a while.

Knee-vermind the sore as long as we reach the top, it was our last straw of encouragement as we are on the final leg of the hike.

Half an hour passed by and the rocks slowly diminished and the trail is now damp soil that feels good on the feet. The wind now sends his chilly welcome and after another 30minutes from our last rest stop. At last campsite 2 after 8 and a half hours at 3:30pm!.

Cold, Cold, Cold

We immediately settled ourselves on the available tables at the campsite and we were just plainly proud of ourselves. The bunker campsite is more popular to other mountaineers, but due to the strong gusts of wind, the trees at the bunker is more vulnerable and possible toppling down on anything is possible.

The wind was more colder and at 4pm we were already wearing our jackets. And late in the afternoon the sky made a spectacular play of lights, from where we were standing, we saw the transition all at once , clouds started billowing at the nearby mountain tops, a sea of cotton in the afternoon.

The west is now a burning horizon amidst pine trees and thick layer of fog. As the sun sets it is also where he’ll meet his partner, the moon.

On the east, the atmosphere is now painted with oblivion, dashes of pink, violet to pitch black now mar the once vibrant atmosphere, as the moon slowly radiates its faint glow on the now darker sky.
We set our camp near some rocks since a group of mountaineers that we met on the trail said that we should pick a good location where our tents won’t be pierced by the wind, unlike theirs that is unfortunately torned down by the winds last night. And by 6pm we started cooking our dinner, rice, sinigang and pork tocino was the food for the night and sipping a hot soup on a cold cold cold mountain top is one of the best feelings to start with. Some little socials around a bonfire and we called it a night.
The Summit

We hadn’t had a good sleep that night because at 2 in the morning the cold weather is really unbearable that our jackets and sleeping bags are no match, even our friend rolled out her emergency blanket to keep herself warm. So we immediately made coffee to heat up our fragile systems and packed up for our early morning assault to the summit.

A ten minute walk from the campsite is where the mossy forest starts, and it took almost an hour before we reached the very summit of Mt. Tapulao.

There are no spectacular rock formations nor sea of clouds at the summit, but just grand views of the surrounding mountain tops belittled by this two thousander peak, what a way to start the morning. As we take it all in, we realized that the journey to reach the very summit, the adventure that happened, the camaraderie and companionship over small meals, and meeting new people along is what makes this victory more rewarding. To appreciate how valuable the little things we take for granted on our daily lives, and how good it is to be reminded once in a while that we are far more blessed than we can imagine.

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It is not always the mountain that you conquer, but challenging and conquering your ownself. Breaking your own misconceptions that you cannot make it nor even do it. It is also not the peak of the mountain that you value but the jubilation of reaching it.

And an hour we spent before going back to our campsite, where this little victory of ours will be ticked off our bucketlists.

And descending back at 10am was another challenge since we have to go back where it all started. But with macaroni soup to fuel us down, it only took 4 hours to reach the jump off point by 2pm.

We ran quickly on our way down and our knees are sore from all the running. And by 4pm we rode the tricycle going back to Iba Station of Victory Liner and at 6pm, we were en route to Manila.
Budget and Itinerary


Mt. Tapulao Overnight

Brgy. Dampay, Sitio Salaza, Palauig, Zambales

Day 01
0000  –  Departure to Palauig, Zambales. Take Sta. Cruz bound Victory Liner buses at Caloocan Terminal (381php/pax)
0500  –  Arrival at National Highway, Brgy. Dampay, Palauig, Zambales take tricycle to registration hall (100php/pax)
0545  –  Arrival at Registration hall, log-in, secure guide, final preparations
Registration Fee – 30php
Guide Fee – 700php/5pax (overnight)
0700  –  Start trek
0945  –  Km. 6, 1st water source
1230  –  Km. 10, 2nd water source
1530  –  Arrival at campsite 1, set camp, prepare dinner
1800  –  Dinner, Socials
2000  –  Lights out

Day 02
0500  –  Wake up
0530  –  Start final assault to summit
0630  –  Arrival at summit
0715  –  descend
0840  –  Back at campsite, break camp, cook breakfast
1000  –  Descend down
1130  –  Km.10
1200  –  Km. 8
1230  –  Km. 6
1400  –  back at registration hall, tidy up
1615  –  take tricycle going to Victory Liner Iba Terminal (Tricycle 150php/pax)
1730  –  Arrival at Victory Liner Iba, take Caloocan bound buses (342php/pax)
2300  –  Manila

Budget:

Transportation:

Bus: 381php/pax (Caloocan-Palauig)

Tricycle: 250php/3pax (Highway – Sitio Salaza – Iba Terminal)

Guide Fee: 700php/5 pax

Registration Fee: 30php/pax
Total Damage for 3pax: 1108.66php/pax (safe budget 1500php/pax)

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot


Go, Carve That Niche,

Rex

The Storyteller’s Imaginarium – Casa San Miguel, Zambales

What lies in the heart of 15 hectare mango tree plantation in Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales is a museum of community heritage for the people, Casa San Miguel, that is.

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All in one. The place highlights the cultural heritage of the people of Zambales and houses several functions into one humble abode.

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Pasilyo!.

Art installations all over the place, all sorts of it.

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It also houses a preschool, workshop for all year round activities and a concert hall for recitals.

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Artifacts and museum pieces all over the place.

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Per aspera ad astra.

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A bed-and-breakfast and a cafe that serves impressive and cheap cuisines for the hungry travellers.

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Integrating culture and community development, modern living in a chateau style   brick and wood house.

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“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Go, Carve that Niche,

Rex

Serenity in Seclusion – Nagsasa Cove, Zambales

You will be welcomed by her warm embrace of calm waves, after an hour of boat ride across the open sea. Somewhere in a far flung area of San Antonio, Zambales only reachable by boat or by hiking the Cinco Picos, Nagsasa Cove will reward you of awesome views of mountain ranges around and of a serene beach.

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Agoho trees are present around the area that provides that airy and cool feeling.

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Climb the nearest hill and get to the vantage point that will give you a glimpse of Nagsasa Cove in her full glory.

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Witness one of those memorable sunsets you will surely remember. And feel that lasting euphoria of your stay in this little paradise.
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Set up camp and prepare a sumptuous dinner with your friends.

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Let this moment free your mind.

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Itinerary & Budget
Nagsasa Cove + Casa San Miguel
2D1N

DAY 1
0600 – ETD Victory Liner, take bus bound to Iba, Zambales (280php/pax)
1100 – ETA San Antonio, Zambales. Buy stuff. Hail tricycle to Brgy. Pundaquit (60php/pax)
1130 – ETA Brgy. Pundaquit. Meet contact person (Nagsasa+Camara+Capones 2800php/group) we are 5 in a group, 560 per pax
1140 – ETD Brgy. Pundaquit
1240 – ETA Nagsasa Cove. Rest. Prepare lunch.
1400 – Explore the place
1600 – Climb nearest hill, watch sunset
1800 – Dinner
2100 – Lights off

DAY 2
0630 – Wake up
0700 – Breakfast
0800 – Tidy up, prepare for the day’s adventure
(Due to inclement weather, we left the island at an earlier time)
1000 – ETA Brgy. Pundaquit, ride tricycle to Casa San Miguel (80php/pax)
11:00 – ETA Casa San Miguel (100php/pax fee)
1330 – take lunch, tricycle back to San Antonio National Road (40php/pax)
1400 – ETD San Antonio to Olongapo. (45php/pax)
1445 – ETA Olongapo, take Victory Liner Bus bound for Manila (240php/pax)
2000 – ETA Manila

Estimated Budget
Transportation: 1305php/pax
Food: 500php/pax

Total Damage:1805php/pax – 2200php/pax for a group of 5pax

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Go, Carve that Niche,

Rex