Norzagaray : discovering Pinagrealan Cave

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Among the many caves in Bulacan who plays a big part in the Philippine Revolution was Pinagrealan. Extending a kilometer deep, this subterranean network of cavern is one budget-friendly destination for those who love the outdoors.

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the cave’s entrance

Already late on our planned Itinerary, we managed to take an ordinary bus going to Sapang Palay at 10am. We asked the conductor to drop us off Road 2. From here you can take a tricycle or passenger jeep up to crossing / rotunda where trike drivers will be able to take you to Pinagrealan.

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It was already 12 noon when we arrived. After we had ourselves registered, we put on our helmet and headlamps and the spelunking begins.

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Registration Area

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restroom

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The land where the cave is situated is privately owned. It was an inheritance from their ancestor which was a Katipunan Leader in Bulacan during the Spanish period, the late General Ambrosio dela Cruz.

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Darkness embraced us as we walked inside the cave who was once called ‘Kweba ng Minuyan’. It served as a secret camp of the Katipunero Revolutionaries during the war against Spain in 1896-1897. It is also on this cave where General Aguinaldo and his men conducted their meetings and tactics against the Spaniards.

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Armed with our headlights, we walked further to explore the cave. Aside from the usual passage we took, there were still many chambers waiting to be discovered.

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Pinagrealan was a silent witness to the heroic acts of many ordinary people who has an extraordinary patriotism and nationalism. Weather it was a celebration for one victorious battle or mourning for the lost lives, the cave was their unseen ally.

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the end of the cave. You may swim here, but i’m not sure how deep it is

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I imagined being Ana and Rodel as Noli. The kids from the 90’s TV Series ‘Bayani’, who were able to visit different time periods in our country’s history and witness the lives of our heroes. Then we will bring back some artifacts to Lola (who is being portrayed by Caridad Sanchez), a copy of their strategic battle plan or a selfie with General Aguinaldo perhaps? (Just kidding but it would be totally awesome right?) :)

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with our guide Sondik

Kunyari tapang-tapangan, I asked our guide if there’s any paranormal stories inside the cave, or if he happened to encounter one. He just smiled so I insist on asking him again.. But the moment he said there is, I felt goose bumps all over my arms so I asked him not to tell us anything, mahirap na.. hahaha! :D It took us an hour and a half to finish our Spelunking. Our adventure didn’t end here; we still have to meet the Rhino and the Lioness :)

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Thanks Rodel for being with me on this one of kind adventure and for allowing me to use some of your photos :)

**Thanks sir Jhino for helping us with the logistics :)

EXPENSES:

EDSA – Road 2 (bus) – P50.00 each

Road 2 – Bigte Crossing (jeep) – P8.00 each

Trike – Pinagrealan Cave – P30.00 (2 persons)

TRAVEL NOTES:

-  Travel time from Edsa to Bigte can take up to 2 and a half hour.

-  There’s NO Registration fee in Pinagrealan Cave but wearing of helmets are                necessary. This can be rented for P50.00 each.

-  Prepare to get wet. There’s water inside the cave which can rise up to your                  knees or above. Bring extra set of clothes.

-  Clean Restrooms are available at the registration area.

-  Headlights are necessary too. If you do not have one, flashlights from the                      registration area are available for free.

-   There’s no fixed rate for the guide. Kung magkano lang ang gusto nyo ibigay, for us       we paid P100.00 (for 2).

-  If you do not have a vehicle with you, you will have to walk back to the main road.        This will only take you approximately 20 minutes or less.

-  Please Observe Silence while inside the cave, noise also has an impact to the            caves natural environment.

**Travel light. Plan ahead. Pack-in & Pack-out. Practice LNT Ethics**

Mt. Osdung – Mt. Timbak : twin Day Hike in the Land of Vegetables

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It was through a random conversation with my hiking buddy Josh that a plan to hike two Cordillera mountains was decided, making Baguio’s Hydro Falls as our first destination since we arrived in the Pine City late afternoon. We stayed at Josh’s relatives on our first night and woke up 4am.

After making sure we had enough courage to brave the cold Cordillera sunrise over a cup of coffee, we thanked Tita and Yani for the accommodation and proceed to Dangwa Terminal to catch the first trip of bus bound to Sagada.

We decided to have a heavy breakfast at the terminal; I had Lenchon-Ampalaya Rice na mas marami ang ampalaya kaysa lechon haha! , and secured our bus tickets afterwards.

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By 6:30 am, the bus left to travel the zigzag road of Benguet, with the cotton candy clouds above the Cordillera Mountains. It was a picture perfect scene.

After more than two hours of travel on the steep and serpentine road of Halsema Highway, we arrived at the Traders Café in Collideng Junction, located at Km. 313, the jump off point of our first mountain.

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Mt. Osdung (2617 masl) is located in Barangay Madaymen in Kibungan Benguet. It is the 16th highest mountain in the Philippines and among those easiest to reach as the road going to the summit is accessible by vehicle.

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From the junction you can ride a van up to Sitio Cagam-is or hitch a ride from jeepney or trucks that transports vegetables, from here the summit is less than an hour.

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Top load sa jeep na kahit na masakit sa pwet masaya pa rin :D

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Although Mt. Osdung is part of Kibungan, the town itself is not accessible through Barangay Madaymen. This hike is reachable via Halsema highway unlike the Kibungan Circuit which originates from Kibungan Town.

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Once you reached the fork going to Sitio Cagam-is, you will walk on a rough road up to the summit.

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Halsema Highway

The last time I set foot on a mountain was a year-end climb on the Great Kibungan Circuit. It was an awesome experience. Overly satisfied, I was idle for 6 months haha! :)

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I took pride on the hard work of the people of Madaymen as I walked on the vegetable garden. From the summit, the green field meets the blue horizon and the Cordillera Mountain that I love most was there to witness my elation.

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the vegetables and the tomb.. kaya ba mataba ang gulay? hihi :)

Kibungan was my end and my beginning. It is where a year of my adventure ended; this is also where it started.

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the summit

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On our way down we were able to hitch another ride, this time from a vegetable truck. Ayos! :D We reached the Junction at 1130 am.

We walked inside the Traders Café, hoping to find something to satisfy our cravings but ended up with a bottle of soft drinks and ube pastries.

While we were still on our utmost energy, we wasted no time and tried to hitch another ride back to Baguio to conquer our 2nd mountain. After a couple of failed attempts we decided to take a bus.. abuso na daw kasi nyahaha! :)

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We asked the conductor to drop us at the Jump off of Mt. Timbak. This is located at Km. 55 in Atok, Benguet, approximately 40 minutes away from Collideng Junction.

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From the junction the jump off is on the left side marked by this signage.

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It was a continue assault on a cemented road..nyaaaa! At syempre wagas ang mga take five’s namin hahaha!

Mt Timbak (2717 masl) is the 9th highest mountain in the Philippines. Also known as Mt. Singkalsa, like Mt. Osdung, it is also one of the accessible Cordillera hikes as your rented vehicle can take you up to where the summit can be reached in an hour. The most popular hike to include this mountain is the ‘Luzon 3-2-1 (Timbak-Tabayoc-Pulag)’.

As we walked on what looks like a never ending road, the gray clouds started to form above us. I wish for any passing vehicle that can take us, at least to shorten our walk, but it was only the Mountain Bikers who came. ‘Sir.. paangkas please hahaha’.  I guess I should be more specific with my wish next time; I’ll include a side car? Haha :P

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That time my tummy was already complaining.. even dare to asked these kids if they have leftover rice at their houses.

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It seems that the challenge going up wasn’t enough, so it rained.. not just on us but to these pretty flowers too so I guess that was okay.

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We only have one umbrella and Josh braved the cold rain as he walked ahead of us. We all shivered on the deluge and found solace on a cup of coffee bought on the store along the rough road. It took us 3 hours to get here.

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We asked the kids to look after our backpacks while we went to the summit marked by three crosses dubbed as the ‘mini-Calvary’. From the store the summit can be reached by 10 minutes.. pero bakit inabot tayo ng 20 minutes Rodel? Nawawala ang trail? Hahaha! :D Kung saan-saan na kami dumaan.

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At the summit, the rain stopped and the clouds make way for us to witness the Vegetable Land below us and the rest of the Halsema Highway. On a clear day you can view Mts. Tabayoc, Panotoan and Pulag (TaPanPu dub by the old timers). We did not check the famous Mummy Cave because of limited time, which is something to look forward on our Luzon 3-2-1. Surprisingly we made it back to the jump off an hour and a half after.

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By 5pm we were already sitting along the highway, extending our arm with the thumb sticking upward (the hitchhiker sign). Unsuccessful and hungry at the same time, we asked the local who passed by us if there’s any Restaurant nearby where we can eat and change clothes. He said to walk 300 meters.. pero 1 km na yata nalalakad namin wala pa rin huhuhussss! So we stopped, extend our arm with the ‘okay’ sign again and a van gave us a ride.

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Outside the van’s window, we watched how the sky was painted in tangerine. The sunset was a sweet reward for us. . telling us that in Life it always rains the hardest on the people who deserve the sun <3

*Photo Credits: Josh and Rodel.

*Shout out to Josh’s relatives who welcomed us and provided free accommodations during our adventure. Thank you Tita, Tito Bong, Yani and to your lil’bro :)

 ACTUAL ITINERARY: 

6:00 am – ETA Dangwa Terminal; Breakfast

6:30am – ETD Sagada-Bontoc bound bus (first trip)

8:50am – ETA Collideng Junction, Km. 313 Halsema Highway

9:00 – Start Hike to Mt. Osdung

**Hitch a ride up to the fork going to Sitio Cagam-is and back at the Junction**

11:45pm – ETD to Mt. Timbak jump off, Km. 55 Halsema Highway

12:25pm – ETA Mt. Timbak jump off

12:30pm – Start ascent

03:25pm – ETA Summit ‘mini-Calvary’

04:00pm – Descend back to Highway (Jump off)

05:30pm – ETA Jump Off

**end of trek**

 EXPENSES:

Dangwa Bus – Collideng Junction P90.00

Collideng Junction – Timbak Jump off P20.00

Timbak Jump off – Baguio City via Van P100.00

**personal expenses such as food not included**

 HIKING NOTES:

  1. Both Mountains can be done on a separate day hikes. If you prefer to do a Twin Hike make sure you board the first trip of bus (Sagada-Bontoc route) in Dangwa Terminal. This is to make sure you will be able to accomplish the two mountains before the night falls.
  2. The bus will have a stopover in Atok, buy some food if you don’t have any. Mahirap ng magutom hihi.
  3. Do not hesitate to hitch a ride during your Mt. Osdung Climb, this will save you time. Don’t forget to thank the friendly drivers okay?
  4. Cellphone Signals are present along the trail for both mountains.
  5. Once on board the bus going to Mt. Timbak Jump off, advice the driver to drop you off at the road going to the Mummy Cave, they are more familiar of this.
  6. No water source, but may ask a local house if you need it.
  7. Transportation going back to Baguio is available via bus or vans which pass by Halsema Highway.

**Travel light. Plan ahead. Pack-in & Pack-out. Practice LNT Ethics**

**Keep Climbing** :) :) :

the search for Baguio’s Hydro Falls

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So you’ve been to Baguio City countless of times and checked out every tourist spots the Summer Capital has to offer, but have you been to its waterfalls?

Before the summer ends, Josh and I planned to hike two Cordillera Mountains making the Hydro Falls, as the locals called it, a perfect side trip for us. With Rodel tagging along, the team of three left Cubao’s Victory Terminal at 7am and reached Baguio City by 1pm.

We walked through Session Road, trying to find a place to eat while the cold Cordillera breeze embraced us. The rain was pouring outside as soon as we finished our late lunch; this didn’t stop us to pursue our plan and went on to look for the passenger jeep that could take us to our destination.

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The Hydro Falls is just 30 minutes away from Baguio City, taking the Jeepney bound to Camp 6. It can be found at the corner of T. Claudio and Carantes St. (this is in between of Session and Harrison Rd). Your landmark will be the Jollibee facing Melvin Jones Grandstand.

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GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAFound this sign on board the passenger jeep, a thought for keeps.

The jeep will pass by Kennon Rd. Once you see the famous Lion head, the jump off to the falls is just 10 minutes away, but on our case it took us approximately 20 minutes as we were forced to walk because of heavy traffic.

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Josh tried to match the saved photos on his phone about the landmark he searched online and the first hanging bridge we saw, undecided if it’s the right one, we asked Ate who’s at the waiting shed for directions and told us to walk further.

Then we saw the 2nd hanging bridge, and asked another local for the way going to Hydro Falls. To our surprise, she’s unfamiliar of it; instead she recommends a river which is perfect for swimming as she described it. It’s tempting but we were eager to see the falls, so we walked again.

On our 3rd hanging bridge we asked another group of locals about the falls and told us to go back as we already missed the jump off, which is the first hanging bridge.

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Hahahaayyyy! No wonder this waterfall is unknown to many. (But I’m writing about it and you’ll probably have an idea to check it out once you are in Baguio, and I am asking  …no, begging you to please be responsible not to vandalize and leave any trash on the area)

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the waiting shed as your landmark

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entrance going to the Hanging Bridge

After crossing the hanging bridge, you will pass some community houses and a basketball court.

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Follow the river trail. You will also cross these boulders before you reached the falls in approximately 30 minutes.

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The Hydro Falls is cascading beautifully against the rough boulders.

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Who would have thought that a waterfall exist near Baguio City? It’s amazing.

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I guess the tension wires were put to cross the 1st layer of the waterfall, but I cannot figure out how to go there, rappel maybe?

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I wonder what it is like up there.

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We took the time to capture the moment and went back to the highway before 6pm.

We dare to hitch a ride back to the City but to no avail, so we rode a passenger jeep hahaha gusto pa kasi ng libre!

It was 7pm when we found ourselves again in Session Rd. We looked for La Azotea Building where the famous Vegan Restaurant ‘Oh My Gulay’ is located.

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The Cafe is owned by internationally acclaimed film maker Kidlat Tahimik, and at the time we were there, the place was a bit crowded as there’s an ongoing Art Exhibit from local artists but none the less the ambiance is still cozy.

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The menu offers interesting and quirky names in reasonable prices. So to end our first day in Baguio, we treat ourselves to a healthy meal.

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I had ‘Anak ng Putanesca’ (their version of Puttanesca) which is delicious, while the boys ordered the ‘Oh My Gulay Rice’.

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Sometimes we taught being familiar with the usual is enough but we do not know what we are missing until we begin to explore. Like this City which is close to my heart, I found out that it is more than just pine trees and strawberries :)

*Photo Credits: Josh and Rodel.

Travel Notes:

  1. The Jeepney fare going to Hydro Falls will cost you P17.00 one way.
  2. There’s no entrance fee going to the waterfall.
  3. The Jump off will be the first hanging bridge. The entrance will be beside Simona’s Store. The waiting shed will also serve as the landmark.
  4. It is advisable to wear sandals or trekking shoes as the boulders going to the waterfalls could be slippery.
  5. Be Responsible. Do not leave your trash.

 **Travel light. Plan ahead. Pack-in & Pack-out. Practice LNT Ethics**

Mt. Bulusan : a Ninja’s Guide in Mountain Climbing

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The Strato Volcano towering 1,565 masl in the Bicol Region is becoming one popular destination for mountaineers. Well known for its three Lakes, Rain Forest and a Summit that offers magnificent views. It is considered as one of the six most active volcanos in the Philippines, but growing up in my humble hometown; I’ve known him as a mighty warrior, whose love story was often told over school plays and colorful festival. . Mt Bulusan.

Getting to Sorsogon is a bit of a challenge, for one has to endure a 12 hour bus ride to experience the grandeur of Bulusan Volcano and its mystic Lakes. Mahaba na nga ang byahe tapos aakyat pa ng bulkan abaa extra challenge yun! Haha!

Here’s the story on how we survived an amazing climb with our proven ninja techniques.

A day before we climb Mt. Bulusan, we had a taste of Bicol’s spicy halo-halo overlooking the famous Mt. Mayon and the Cagsawa Ruins.

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pramis maanghang yan :D

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After we had our lunch in Legazpi City, we negotiated a van to take us to Irosin Sorsogon, where a relaxing hot spring is waiting.

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We spent the 1st night at San Mateo Hot Spring; it is located at the foot of Mt. Bulusan, making it as a perfect side trip after the climb. The entrance fee is P35.00 for a day trip and P45.00 if you will spend the night; however the pool is only until 12mn. Open Cottages can also be rented for P300.00 and above. If you want to stay overnight, air-conditioned rooms are available for P2000.00 with 2 beds and own bathroom, plus your entrance fee and amenities is free of charge.

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We had the famous Laing and Bicol Express for dinner and indulged ourselves into a relaxing hot bath.. aaahhhhhhh! Tanggal sakit ng katawaaannn. Suuurrraaaappp! (habang si Ron ay bumabyahe pa).

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The Zen-like calm technique was applied that night, while we satisfy ourselves in the heavenly spring. It is the ability to stay focus (focus sa hot spring) and not be stressed. For we know tomorrows hike will be tough, we need to recharge our chakra hahaha! Kaya ang mga side trip ay dapat talaga inuuna lalo na kung ito ayy hot spring :)

The next morning (climb proper) we hire a trike to take us to the town of Irosin where Ron will be waiting for us. We had Breakfast and bought some packed lunch and negotiated a trike to take our group to Bulusan Lake, where the jump off is located. Travel time is approximately 30 minutes which cost us P50.00 each.

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We were greeted by the staff of WildBOARS, the group responsible in managing Bulusan Volcano Natural Park. We were told that sisters Kym and Kendi will join our hike, so while waiting for them we’ve arranged our things, checked our vital signs (Blood Pressure), signed a Waiver, met our guide and porter and had an early lunch.

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Our hike will commence at 1130am. We were also briefed about Mt. Bulusan, the trails, the distance, water sources and the do’s and don’ts.

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The emerald water of Bulusan Lake was so serene which makes it perfect for kayaking. Kaya naman hindi namin pinaligtas ito hahahaha :D

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Kayaks are available for rent for P50.00 (not sure if it’s per hour), but this facility is already free to use as part of the registration fee.

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A ninja must be Weapon-savy. You must know what tools to use.. on this hike the first tool to use is the Kayak and its paddle. You would have to use this to get to the starting point of the climb, which is on the other end of the Lake. If you don’t want to flex your muscles yet you can ride a motorboat to take you. Kaya naman unlimited kayak ang ginawa namin hahaha! Muntik na pigsain ang mga liki-liki. Sagwan to the max ahaha! :D

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Another activity of this climb is the tree planting at the Ranger Station which we were able to reach at around 1:00 pm. We planted the sapling given to us (we even named them hahaha) and took the time to rest a little.

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The Camouflage Technique was the most important of all. When Mother Nature calls you, your invisibility skills should be perfect, especially when you have to ‘plant the bomb’.. you know what I mean haha. This is the most used technique during our hike, from the ranger station to Aguingay Campsite.. halos lahat kami nagpaka invisible. Anyare sa mga ‘tyan naten?? haha!

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The trails going to the campsite although a bit steep is manageable, ‘limatiks’ are also visible on some areas pero si Josh lang ang paborito nilang sipsipin :D

A true Ninja must be Obedient and must follow the accurate ‘take five’ (minutes) rule. Ang five minutes ay five minutes.. hindi pwedeng i-extend lalo na sa energetic guide naming si Ate Virgie hahaha. ‘mga sir/mam five minutes na po.. tara na’ hahaha. And because of this we were able to reach Aguingay Campsite 940 masl at 330pm, sooner than expected.

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The campsite was occasionally flooded during the rainy season thus it resembles a Lake at the foot of Mt. Bulusan and dries up during summer. It is surrounded by a tropical rainforest and lush vegetation, from here the summit of the volcano is visible. There is also a water source nearby and a hut (the guide and porter can sleep here) where you can prepare and cook food.

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So we set up our tents, took more pictures, goofed around and laugh our hearts out with the mighty Bulusan.

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Before the night falls the cooking show began with Chef Ron at ang mga misis na audience na hindi Makita. Ano-ano nga ulit ang mga klase ng mantika? Hahahhaa! We had pasta and Buffalo wings for dinner. Sowsyal ng bahagya hahahhaha!

The night was illuminated by the moon and we were embraced by Aguingay’s cold weather. It was 10pm when we call it a night.

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 We were awakened by strong winds.. parang saranggola ang tent namin. We had no choice but to get up. We found solace in a cup of coffee. It was already 3 am; we need to start our ascent. It will take approximately 3-4 hours hike on a steep terrain to get to the crater, so we did not waste any time.

Armed with our hydration pack, we began our hike. On the first part of the trail to the summit you will pass by the rain forest, the roots of the trees will help you as you climb your way up.

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There’s no water source going up the crater, so make sure you have enough water with you. Once you are out of the forest, the next terrain is composed of cogon grass. As you ascend you will be able to see the entire Campsite and the Sharp Peak of Bulusan.

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Out of trail food? Don’t worry, there’s a lot of wild strawberries as you continue your way to the summit. Yun eh kung hindi pa nahaha-harvest kagaya ng ginawa nila.. hahaha!

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It was the most organized hike we had so far. From the jump off we were monitored by WildBOARS through a 2 way radio to make sure we’re okay. We were also informed about the summit’s condition which turned out to be cloudy.

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We were not able to witness a magnificent view at the summit, but none the less it was still amazing. The boulders, the sulfuric environment, the fog.. it was extraordinary.

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On a clear day a distant view of Mt. Mayon and the rest of Sorsogon can be seen, as well as the Blackbird Lake inside the crater. I may not be able to see all these on this hike, but I was able to set foot on an active volcano with the most awesome hiking friends.. and that is more than enough <3

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I conquered the Volcano who was once a silent witness to my childhood, and made a promise to go back to appreciate more of this mighty warrior.

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After some ninja photo ops, we started to hike back to the campsite. Hindi na rin napigilan mag trail run kasi mga gutom na hahahaha.

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After our breakfast-lunch in one we started the hike back to the jump off before 12 noon.

The walk back to Bulusan Lake consist of many happy trails.. happy trails nga ba Rache, Grace at Maam Krym?? Hahahaha. We made it to the Lake before 4pm.

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Hiking with them is more than Awesome!

Mt. Bulusan is one of my favorite and happiest hikes. Experience it, you’ll not be disappointed.

Oh did I mentioned I climbed this volcano with my father who also became a ninja.. awesome right? And by the way, the Ninja Techniques can be applied in any order :D

*Photo Credits to: Rache and WildBoars Phil. Thank you :)

How to Get There:

  • Daily Bus Trips bound to Sorsogon are available at Cubao and Pasay Terminal. Travel time is 12 hours or more depending on the Bus hehehee.
  • Bus fare can range from 300-500 (ordinary) and 700-1000 (aircon).
  • You may take the buses bound directly to Irosin Sorsogon as this is the most convenient, or you may take buses bound to Bulan, Matnog, or Samar and ask the driver to drop you off the crossing in Irosin.
  • From Irosin, you may take a trike up to Bulusan Lake; fare is P50.00 each.
  • Alternatively, if you are coming from Legazpi, you may take a van bound to Sorsogon. Fare is around P80.00. Once in Sorsogon City, take a jeep bound to Bulusan or Irosin (not sure of the fare but it should not be more than P100.00).

Hiking Notes:

  1. It is important to schedule your climb at WildBoars Phil as they can only allow 20 climbers to hike Mt. Bulusan per day. You may email them at wildboarsphil@yahoo.com.
  2. Registration Fee is P350.00 (the proceeds will be explained in detail on the email they’ll be sending).
  3. Guide Fee is P500.00 per day (max of 5 pax per group). Porters Fee is P350.00 per day.
  4. The latest time you can hike from the jump off to Base Camp (Aguingay) is 2pm; it is advisable you’ll be in Bulusan Lake in the morning for briefing.
  5. Day hikes are possible in Bulusan however you wouldn’t want to miss the chance of a beautiful sunrise early in the morning at the summit/crater.

Additional Reminders from WildBoars:

(1.) Please bring an extra “Malong” with you since there is no closed CR at the campsite being Nature at its best.

(2.) Please be reminded also that “limatiks or blood leeches” are present in the trail, you might encounter a few without your knowing and adequate clothing protection should be considered as well as gloves.

(3.) We have a separate bathroom for males and females in Bulusan Lake area of which you can take a shower after your climb. The water used/supplied for the climber is from lake water as there is no electricity available.

(4.) To reduce trash and overall weight on your expedition, kindly remove all commercial packaging. Less packaging means less weight and less trash to carry when you return to Bulusan Lake area.

**Travel light. Plan ahead. Pack-in & Pack-out. Practice LNT Ethics**

**Keep Climbing** :) :) :)

Calaguas Island: my first solo backpacking to Paradise

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Recently I’ve been seeing invites / organized tour going to Calaguas on Facebook, making it as one of the must go destination this summer. Hence the once secluded paradise is now being discovered by many.

Calaguas Island is very close to my heart, not just because of its pristine beauty, but this is where I embark my first solo backpacking.

It was two years ago when I first heard of this island called ‘mahabang buhangin’ in Camarines Norte, I was a big fan of travel blogging then (well, until now) and I envy their courage for exploring amazing places on their own and their encouragement that you don’t need to be rich to travel (very true). I was driven.

Here’s my epic story at ang mga aral na nakuha ko sa daan :)

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I had a good sight of Mt. Isarog when the plane landed in Naga Domestic Airport at 6am. I started walking towards the highway despite the persistence of Kuya pedicab driver that I take the ride which will only cost me P20.00, eh nagtitpid kasi talaga ako hahaha. Upon reaching the highway, I immediately boarded a bus going to Naga Central Terminal where I need to take a van going to Daet, Camarines Norte then another van going to Paracale, my entry point to Calaguas.

I enjoyed the bucolic scenery outside the window as the van traveled on the zigzag road. I was thankful for the blue sky and fluffy clouds. I was excited. By the way, I was born and raised in Bicol, so travelling around the province is easier for me hehe. (yabang ng konti) :D

The van arrived in Paracale just before lunch. I asked the driver where the port is located and told me to walk on the direction he pointed.

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It was not the usual port. It was just a shoreline with some houses. I asked around for the passenger boat going to Calaguas and one elderly man told me “naku, walang ba-byahe ngayon Ne’, malakas ang alon gawa ng habagat. Hindi kakayanin ng bangka. Baka bukas meron.” Nyaaa! I was about to cry hahaha! and all i can say was ‘ganun po ba..’ :(

Lesson number 1: Always have a backup plan.

I began to walk away but someone called my attention. ‘Di ba pupunta ka sa Calaguas?’ I nod and said ‘opo’, he must have heard our conversation. ‘May pupuntang Bangka duon, mag dadala ng mga semento at bakal. Mag isa ka lang naman diba? Itatanong ko muna sa kapitan ng bangka kung papayag sya na sumakay ka’. My eyes widened and I smiled as he walked towards the boat.

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Luckily the captain/owner of boat agreed to take me with them. Yehheeyyy! As soon as they finished loading their things, the boat began to sail.The once blue sky was turned into gray, and the sea water started to get rough.

I had a little chat with the captain. He told me he frequently brought tourist to Calaguas during summer season and the boat can be rented for P2000.00 which can carry 20 persons. I cannot afford to rent the boat by myself, so I rely on the local passenger boat which will just cost me P50.00, kaya lang walang byahe nung araw na yun ahehehe. Buti nalang naka hitch ako sa Bangka.

He also told me our travel time can take up to 3 hours because of the strong waves. It was not just strong… it was HUGE!. I stare aimlessly on the endless sea water while the boat battled its way against the waves. It was like a roller coaster ride in the middle of the sea.

The wind was howling and it’s raining. I shivered and was all wet as the waves collided on our boat, as if it will only stop when it breaks into half. Buwis-buhay!

‘Hindi ka ba natatakot?’, asked the captain, almost shouting. I smiled and shouted back ‘hindi po’. I am not a good swimmer, and believe me; I already imagined the worst thing that can happen to me on that moment, but I was far from being scared. I was amazed.

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When I saw the long stretch of glittering sand from afar, the buwis-buhay boat ride was worth it.

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Kuya-captain (na nakalimutan ko ang pangalan) told me his sister in-law has a house near the beach which can accommodate me. He must have known I do not have anything with me but a backpack full of clothes.

Lesson number 2: when going to a secluded beach, bring a tent.

The boat docked on the shore and Kuya introduced me to her sister-in-law (syempre nakalimutan ko rin ang pangalan nya). She offered me a cup of coffee. Good thing she also has a small sari-sari store (wala kasi akong dalang pagkain at tubig). Hahaha! Feeling survivor lang.

Lesson Number 3: Bring necessary food and water kung hindi ka cast ng Survivor :D

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She told me I am not the only visitor in the island as someone arrived yesterday. After our small chat, she showed me where I can stay. It was a small hut with bed made of plywood and an improvised kitchen not far from their house. It is where they cook food for the laborers of an ongoing construction for a resort, Nalungkot ako bigla. If the place will be developed then there is also a big chance it can be spoiled.

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 After I changed my clothes, I positioned myself on my temporary bed. I was not able to introduce myself to the tourist Ate was referring but I saw her tent pitched outside the hut. Hunger escaped me as I began to realize the adventure I had. I thanked Him not only because I survived the waves of Calaguas, but for another Life given to me. Birthday ko kasi kinabukasan <3. I closed my eyes and exhaustion consumed me. I fell asleep.

I was awakened by the sound of the wind outside, darkness surrounded me. I just guessed it’s already midnight, so I went back to sleep.

Lesson number 4: bring a flashlight or headlight, hindi mo alam kung may katabi ka na sa dilim. Nyaaa!

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a visitor :) good morning dog!

I think it was 6am when Ate woke me. She said I can come to their house to have breakfast, so that’s what I did. When I return to the kubo, I saw her, the girl with an afro hair and pretty almond eyes, Elsie. We said ‘hi’ to each other and began talking non-stop. Halos maubos yung English ko haha.

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fisherman caught this baby shark

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We both plan to go back to Paracale after lunch but we were told no passenger boat can take us because of the weather. It was still gloomy, and there’s no chance that the gray sky will turn into blue.

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perfect spot to relax :)

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cottages :(

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on going resort construction :(

I asked Elsie if she would like to come with me to the community on the other side of the island and she said yes. I told her it’s my birthday and maybe we can find something we can cook for a little celebration, and she got excited.

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The foreman of the ongoing resort volunteered to take us to the community. He even wants to cook Calamares (fried octopus) for us. Yum!

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There was an established trail going to the community. We walked for 30 minutes passing the locals houses, the school and Barangay Hall. We bought fresh octopus, chicken and some pastries.

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We had fried chicken, calamares and a hearty green papaya cooked in coconut milk, in short ginataang papaya haahah! We ate under the shade of palm trees using our bare hands. It was a savory meal. The best birthday lunch I had so far.

The rest of the day was spent on the aqua marine water of Calaguas with its powdery white sand.

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Everything was surreal. That moment I can only say to myself ‘wow! You are actually here. You were able to do this’.

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We had our dinner on the wooden table outside the kubo. We ate the left overs we had from lunch, it was still delicious. There’s no electricity in Mahabang Buhangin but during our stay we had a light powered by a generator being used because of the construction, which will be turned off at 11pm.

While we were eating next to each other, Elsie pointed on something and said ‘do you see that?’. My eyes followed the direction she pointed and saw a big tree covered by flickering lights.. Fireflies!

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my camera wont work when i tried to capture the actual tree but it looks like this. credit to the owner

The big tree was just 50 meters away from us. We walked towards it and I felt like I was in a fairytale. It was like an invitation, an opening to a different world. We stood there for half an hour. I guess that’s the reason why it was cloudy that night, because the stars were on that tree.

Before Elsie and I went to sleep, we talked about her travels around the Philippines. Her 2 week vacation ended up months. She told me there’s nothing much to do in Sweden because it is always snowing, so she started backpacking. She’s been to different countries but she fell in love most in ours not only because of the beauty the Philippines has to offer, but we have the nicest people too. She’s been to Mindanao, dived with the whale sharks, cliff jump in some place in Boracay and rode a public transport on her own. She inspires me to explore more.

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I asked her where she gets funds to do all these travelling. And she said ‘you save for it’. Elsie told me she will be in Sydney after Calaguas as she was able to get a job there. She doesn’t have enough travel funds so she has to save again, once she had enough she will pack her bags and maybe we can meet again, in the temples of Cambodia.

The light were turned off, it was time for us to sleep. It was an exceptional night.

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The next day Ate told us that a boat will leave for Paracale at 8 am, so we packed our things and walked back to the community where the outrigger boat is waiting.

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We were greeted by the same big waves as we head back to the mainland. The boat was much smaller this time and there were 10 of us in it. None of them were uneasy, sanay na sanay sila sa lagay ng alon. And I must say that the bangkeros of Calaguas are the best as I saw them navigate our boat against the raging waves.

I just sat still next to Elsie and enjoyed the moment. If I let my fear eat me, I wouldn’t be able to experience this, I wouldn’t have turned strangers into friends.

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Some people will ask me how do I start backpacking, and I will tell them this story like it just happened yesterday. For whenever I share this adventure I always felt the sands of Calaguas lingers on my feet. The piece of paradise I want to remain as it is, clean, unspoiled, pristine.

Subic Beach: turquoise water, salt in my hair

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Bliss is the sand in my toes and the sunburn on my nose.

The gentle sound of the crashing waves was all I can think of after I received an invite from a former colleague for a summer getaway. I immediately browse my old photos of the beach she was referring to and had the same feeling over the turquoise water of Subic Beach.

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Matnog Sorsogon, being the last municipality of Luzon prides the long stretch of pinkish white sand and crystal water of Subic beach. It’s an hour and a half boat ride from the shores of Matnog to Calintaan Island where it can be found.

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It was almost 4pm when our rented jeep arrived in Matnog. All visitors are required to register and pay the necessary fees at the Tourism Office. The fee is inclusive of island hopping, cave tour and a visit to Juag Fish Sanctuary. Here, you can rent registered boats to take you to the island.

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The boat sailed smoothly on the cerulean water and had a quick stop at the Fish Sanctuary. While Megan and her family went to see the fishes, I had a little chat with the boatman. From them I learned that there are alternative ways to go to the island, and this will only coast you P20.00 :) ayos diba!

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We were greeted by party music as the boat docked in the shoreline. I should have known this, a visit to the island on a weekend this summer was not a good idea. The beach has a lot of visitors; we barely had enough space to pitch our tent.

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To get away from the crowd, I decided to take a walk and find a good spot to take photos of the stars.

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I wish to be one of them, for they were able to witness the once unspoiled paradise, where the only things among them are the sound of the waves and the stillness of the night.

When we were all ready to get some sleep, my silent wish was granted, it rained. Enough for the rowdy crowd to finished their partying.

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As the morning sun shine, I remembered the first time I saw the turquoise water, I fell in love with it and that morning feels the same.

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Who could resist? :)

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We all enjoyed swimming under the perfect summer heat. I watched the boats going back and forth the open sea, with passengers wearing their orange life vest.

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The ocean air carried my bliss as the salt water lingers on my hair and the sun kissed my cheeks <3

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And when it’s time to say goodbye to the turquoise water and the pinkish sand, I made a promise to come back, where I will be their only company :)

How to get there:

From Sorsogon City take a passenger Jeep going to Matnog (Daily Trips are available) and rent a boat to take you to the island.

Travel Notes:

  1. Registration is required at the Tourism Office. Fee is P75.00 and P320.00 for foreigners (no idea why).
  2. Boat rental can cost up to P2000.00 for spending overnight in the island. Use your haggling skills.
  3. You may also try the local’s passenger boat going to the island for P20.00 one way fee. No life vest though. The small outrigger boat will dock in the community and you will just have to walk some 20 minutes to go to Subic Beach. (I haven’t tried this yet. Will update this blog as soon as I try this route.)
  4. Small store, Electricity and Phone signal are present and maybe intermittent at some area.
  5. Open cottages cost P300.00 and Closed cottages for P500.00 (additional P100.00 if you will spend the night). No camping fee.
  6. Clean Restrooms are available too.
  7. Do not leave your trash.
  8. Bring your hammock and enjoy the beach :)

**Happy Backpacking**

Paguriran Island : Lagoon and everything else

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A little sand between your toes always takes away your woes.

The powdery sandbar emerged through the salty beach water, leading a way to the jagged Paguriran Island. The 6am sun is shining, the weather is sweet and the distant Mayon Volcano offers a breath taking view.

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Tucked in the coastal barangay of Sawanga Bacon District is a formation of jagged rocks and corals called Paguriran Island.

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From the shoreline, you would have to cross approximately a hundred meter to find a lagoon with its aquamarine water.

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We had the place to ourselves as we were the first to arrive in the area. We took photos to our hearts content and enjoyed the refreshing sea water and the blue sky above us.

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the Lagoon during high tide. photo taken 2013

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the Lagoon during high tide. photo taken 2013

We also scrambled into the rough boulders to get to the other side of the island, well this is to challenge myself to do a little cliff jumping as the water here is much deeper… and yes I survived haha!  Madami nga lang akong nainom na tubig dagat :)

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You wouldn’t have any problem crossing the island in the morning as the water is shallow and tends  to rise up to your chest in the afternoon, so make sure to waterproof your things :)  and so after our epic cliff jumping and swimming with the local kids we head back to the shoreline.

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It was already noon and the cottages where already filled with families enjoying their lunch-by-the-beach and the kids playing in the sea shore. It was a happy scene under the summer heat, coconut trees and grilled fish.

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We pitched our tents for free, washed up for 5 pesos and filled our tummy with halo-halo, cup noodles and whatever we can buy on the nearby sari-sari store. (Ayaaann hindi kasi nagbaon ahaha)

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Mt. Mayon is keeping me company as my thoughts wander on the blue horizon. I gaze at the heart shaped clouds above.

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It reminds me that there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shore line, no matter how many times it is sent away. Like a love that was once lost and the hope for it to comeback. I lie inside my tent still thinking of the heart-shape clouds and fall asleep.

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 And woke up to this fascinating scene.

I’ve been to this place before, but the sand bar and the view of the Majestic Mayon Volcano from here was my first.

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Paguriran Island might disappoint some of its visitors. The sand, although powdery, is not as white as those compared to other beaches. Dried leaves and twigs and seaweeds are evident on the shore and Mangroves were present on both ends of the shore line. Stray dogs and videoke people can be a nuisance too but Paguriran is charming on its own way. I guess it is just how you see and appreciate things.

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photo taken 2013

It is not the perfect beach, but I had a perfect moment <3

 

How to get there:

From Sorsogon City take a Jeep bound to Sawanga Bacon and ask the driver to drop you off Paguriran. (Daily trips are available). From the road, you would need to walk some 20 meters to get to the shore line.

 

Travel Notes:

  1. Jeepney Fare is P40.00 (one way) as of this writing.
  2. First trip from Sorsogon City to Sawanga is at 6am and Last trip from Sawanga to Sorsogon City is 3pm. Travel time may take up to 2 hours depending on the jeep.
  3. Picnic Cottages are available for rent for P300.00
  4. Closed Cottages are also available for those who want to spend the night for P500 pesos which can accommodate 2-4 persons.
  5. Sari-sari store is also available but it is advisable to bring your own food as the price here is a bit higher compared to those in the grocery stores.
  6. Clean Restrooms are available.
  7. There’s a parking fee too.
  8. Cellphone signal is present for Smart and Globe (not sure for sun subscribers).
  9. Practice Leave No Trace principle.
  10. Smile and talk to the locals, they are friendly :)

 **Happy Backpacking**

Kibungan Circuit : where my Heart Wanders

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Someone close to my heart taught me that it is never too late to do the things you love, to take chance on everything. That it is okay to cry on the things you can’t understand and to laugh your heart out because you are simply happy. Life is indeed too short, and he lost his battle to it. He may have left me with a broken heart, but he showed me how to live.

The ray of the golden sun awakes me. It has been 3hrs since we left Dangwa Terminal and we are still on the road. The ordinary bus was filled with passengers, there’s not enough seat for everyone and all is willing to stand on their feet and endure the long travel just to be home before the holiday.

We have so much love for the Cordilleras that we decided to hike again on its mountain 4 days after conquering Mt. Pulag. The blue sky is a promise of a good weather while the breathtaking scenery outside the bus window assured us of an epic year end climb.

After a couple of stop overs, we reached Poblacion. We’ve met kuya Mark, the guide arranged to us by Sir Charo, our contact in Kibungan.  We were not able to meet him but Ms. Wenday from the Municipal government gave us a warm welcome and made sure we have  everything we need before our climb.

Josh and I travelled 62 kilometers north of Baguio City to get to the town with a unique mountain. Endured an almost 11hr bus ride from Cubao to Baguio City to Kibungan Benguet to experience the Great Kibungan Circuit, this will be our longest hike to date.

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The Circuit is comprised of Mt. Tagpaya, Mt. Oten and Mt. Tagpew. For three days we will live inside the pine forest, for three days we will walk to a place we can call home.

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We had our lunch in the sleepy town and bought some supplies. At exactly 1:30pm we started our hike. On the first part of the trail you will walk on a wide rough road passing some local houses and a school. It was a continuous descent all the way to Tanap River. Akala nga namin ee pauwi na kami at puro pababa, hangsakit sa paa!

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After crossing the Hanging Bridge you will then face an assault up to Abas Community under the scorching heat of the sun. Puro paakyat naman ngayon. .nyaaahhh!

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It was 2:30 pm when we reached the Community. The Kankanaey Tribe is having a Kanyaw, an Igorot Ritual, we are lucky enough to witness it. Some were dancing to an ethnic music outlandish to my ear while the others are preparing for the feast. They asked us to stay for a while.

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I took the time to capture these priceless moments with the kids in the village. They are the cutest.

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The Kankanaey people are very hospitable; they’ve offered us food and made sure we have enough water to bring on our hike. We had a little chat with them and I was surprised that they are conversing in English and not in tagalog, especially the elders.

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I asked kuya Mark about this, he said aside from their local dialect; English will be the second language in the village because of the influence made by the missionaries over the past years. Those who can speak tagalog are the ones who had been in the lowlands, especially to the city.

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An hour after, we courteously said our goodbyes to them and promised the next time we get back we were able to speak at least a little kankanaey words to chat with them.

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We entered the pine forest as we continue with our trek. The heat of the sun turned into a cold freezing environment as we walk on a steep terrain. From time to time we would stop to catch our breaths.

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The fog enfolds us, creating an enigmatic feeling, as if a werewolf is watching behind the mist. I just hope it would be Jacob Black.. or else nyahahahah! :D

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Kuya Mark and I walked slowly; we’re not even talking to save energy. I checked on the time, quarter to 5. It’s already getting dark. I stopped for a quick rest and asked how far the campsite is. ‘Malapit na po mam, dun po sa taas na yun’, he pointed. I can see it but it seems we still have a long way to go.

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Josh is way behind us. After about 15 minutes he still out of sight. I worriedly shout for his name.. parang ganito  ‘jjjoooooosssshhhhhhhh’.. mga 5 minutes naming ginawa to ni kuya Mark. Then we heard a response, we saw him. ‘Sorry nakatulog ako.. at nanaginip pa. Nasa bahay na daw ako at gumagawa ng collage ng kibungan tapos pag dilat ng mata ko nasa trail pa pala ako’ we both laugh :)

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Without further delay we began to walk again. It was another assault to the campsite of Mt. Buga. Josh was not feeling well since we started our trek. The colds and headache slowed him. He asked us to go ahead, although a bit hesitant because of his condition, I proceed thinking if I can reach the campsite before the night falls I can setup our tent and we can rest at once.

It was 5:30 when we reached a clearing. We made it to the e-camp of Mt. Buga. There’s a water source just below the site. While pitching our tent, kuya Mark fetch water for us and told me he will spend the night on the nearby house.

I immediately prepare for dinner, Kare-kare for a reward. From where I am, I can see the distant community lights and the ocean of stars above the night sky. Josh has a slight fever, I asked him to rest while our food is being cooked.

The mountains silhouette plus the darkness around me gives an eerie feeling. It’s as if there were eyes watching.. ee ganun talaga kasi yung imagination ko. Nyahahaha :) ! To keep myself busy, I texted Rodel, their group is currently at Lake Tabeyo to camp and will hike Mt. Tabayoc in the morning, their 2nd mountain to complete the Luzon 3-2-1.. mga hardcore ee :). So with a phone on the left hand and a knife on the right, that’s how paranoid I was :D nyahahahah! Kaya naman kahit hindi pa luto ang kanin ay pinilit ko ng gisingin si Josh para makakain na at makatulog.

It was an incomparable day 1. We had a good hike. I closed my eyes with so much happiness in my heart, for that night we slept with the stars shining brightly above us.

Day 02: Mt. Tagpaya (1820 masl) to Mt. Oten (1875 masl)

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We woke up at 6am with a surprise. Mornings should always be like this.

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The glorious sunrise slowly awakens the Big Rock in front of us. Its top has pine trees perfectly planted. I thank God for things like this.

At dahil food fest kami.. nakapagluto pa kami ng breakfast. Mac in chilli beans at Creamy Mushroom Soup nyahahahah!We proceed with our hike by 9am. The sun is already up, reminding us of a tough day ahead.

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The weather in Kibungan can be compared of those in Mt. Lobo. The heat of the sun can drain your energy and sometimes your sanity. Kaya naman kung maka take five kami ee wagas.. walang halong pag mamadali.. hahaha.

We’ve met a group of mountaineers on their way down. They did an outreach on one of the communities in Kibungan. Saludo kami mga sir at mam!

Our patience was put to test on the steep trail of Mt. Tagpaya. It was an endless ascent. On some part you would have to climb into the steps carved on the mountains boulder.

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By 11:15 we’ve reached the campsite. We had sisig and rice under the pine trees with a superb view of the rest of the Cordilleras. It was perfect.

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We spent an hour lying on the earth’s floor, staring at the cloudless blue sky. My heart always wander in a place like this.. a place where Life struggles  do not exist.

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10 minutes from where we are is the summit of Mt. Tagpaya.

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It was 12:30 when we decided to descend and continue with our trek to Mt. Oten. It was a never ending trail of ups and downs.  We walked without complaining, for every step towards the next summit offers a rewarding scene.

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After about 2 hours the trail transitioned into a mossy forest. The verdant moss gave a refreshing feeling. Pitcher plants are also abundant on this area. It continued until the next water source marked by a hanging bridge.

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The original plan was to hike all the way to Mt. Tagpew (2105 masl). Kuya Mark told us we could reach the campsite by 8pm. This made me hesitant. It’s not a problem to do a night trek however since we were both exhausted chances are we might get there later than 8pm.. isa pa sayang ang view ng Kibungan.

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So we both agreed to spend the night at Mt. Oten’s campsite, the only consequence is that there’s no water source nearby.

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By 430pm we finally made it to the campsite. We immediately set up our tent and prepare for dinner. A creamy Macaroni Soup Kibungan style is perfect for the freezing weather.

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It’s our second night inside the Great Kibungan, and it was exactly a year when Josh and I became hiking buddies. It was through a decision-from-the heart that we had our first hike at Mt. Romelo, and after that we would always hike together. Decisions came from the heart will always lead to wonderful things, just like meeting another adventurous soul whom you share the same passion, just like having sensible conversations whenever you feel like talking about random things, just like these priceless moments at the campsite. It was just us, the starry sky and the pale moonlight.

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DAY 03: Mt. Tagpew (2105 masl) and the Traverse

We woke up to a cold Monday morning. It was 6am when we saw our first light, a magical tangerine sunrise.

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The Cordillera Mountains will always have my heart.

We still have one more mountain to conquer, so after a quick breakfast of what we could cook, we fixed our things and start the descent at 7:30.

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We learned from Kuya Mark that Kibungan can be traversed to Ilocos Sur exiting La Union. He said this can be done in 4 days..nyaaahhhh! I got excited again.Kibungan never fails to surprise me. That’s another reason to come back.

a distant view of Ilocos Sur

a distant view of Ilocos Sur

Again the trail going to the 3rd mountain is a combination of ups and downs. Pa ahon kung pa ahon at pa baba kung pa baba. After a walk through the pine trees, once again we found ourselves inside a mossy forest. Nakaka amaze talaga. You will pass by another water source before you proceed to the summit.

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After 4hrs we’ve reach Mt. Tagpew. The summit has a landmark to set the boundaries for the 3 Municipalities of Benguet; Kibungan, Atok and Bakun.  We have also seen a distant view of Mt Sto Tomas and Mt. Ugo and the Bakun Mountains.

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a distant view of Mt. Sto. Tomas as view from Mt. Tagpew

a distant view of Mt. Sto. Tomas as view from Mt. Tagpew

a distant view of Mt. Ugo

a distant view of Mt. Ugo

Bakun Mountains

Bakun Mountains

The sun is shining brightly against the cold morning breeze. We shivered while preparing for whatever we can cook for lunch. Kasi nga fiesta kami nung day 1 at day 2 kaya naman ang natira samin ay isang latang Beef loaf at knorr cubes na ginawa naming sabaw..nyahahahahahha! ang alat! :D

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The rest of our idle time was spent gazing at the clear blue sky again, imagining things formed by the fluffy clouds. Puro dinosaur yung nakita ko pero si Josh ay may kakaibang nakita nyahahahah! :)

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Wew! This is life. If only I could freeze the moment but we still have to hike 8 hours to complete the Circuit.

The walk back to Kibungan started at 130pm. Kung ano yung haba ng inakyat naming pataas, ganun din kahaba yung binaba namin. At some point we did try to trail run, but the loose soil prevents us from continuing.

As we approach Beyeng Community we noticed a lot of trash along the trail. Nakakalungkot. It came from the villagers who pass on this part of the trail according to kuya Mark. I just hope the Kibungan government can disseminate environmental education to the Community; after all they are collecting fees from Mountaineers. We picked whatever trash we can see, kaya lang sa dami ee hindi namin kaya ibaba lahat.

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At 2:30pm we reached a wide rough road. We walked under the unforgiving sun.

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By 3:30pm we made it to the next water source, it was at St. John’s Chapel.

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Take 20 minutes muna tapos picture picture.

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After an hour of continuous walking out of the wide rough road, we found the Bato Viewpoint. It gave us a magnificent view of Kibungan’s Rice Terraces.

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We were at Mayos River at 5:15. It was starting to get dark. Yes! 4 hours nalang!

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We trek the night crossing the rice fields. Our headlight was a life saver when darkness surrounded us.

At 7:15 we finally made it to the Hanging Bridge of Tanap River. From here it was an endless assault until you reached Poblacion.Nagkatakutan pa kami nung malaman naming may nadaan kaming sementeryo, napabilis tuloy yung pacing naming nyahahahah! Pa relax-relax pa kasi :D

I enjoyed the night, for without the dark we will never see the stars. We’ve made it back to civilization by 9:15pm.

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We have completed the Kibungan Circuit. We walked 23.5 kilometers. For 3 days we experienced the great outdoors. We slept under the star lights and witnessed a fascinating sunrise. We watched the fluffy clouds being blown by the cold cordillera wind. We wander and received more than we seek.  It was an Epic Year End Climb.

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When my heart wanders in the Great Kibungan, it made me realize a lot of things. That there is an end to all your ups and downs.. just like the trail. That Happiness is always a matter of choice whatever your situation is. Just like walking endlessly on the trail and knowing that at the end of it something wonderful is waiting. The year changed a lot of my perspective in life, the way I see things, the way I value them and whatever the next will bring me I will always be reminded to take a chance because we never know what might happen, to cry when you feel like crying, to laugh your heart out because you are simply happy. To live and not just to exist, to keep the faith and to believe on second chances.

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Thanks buddy for a year full of amazing adventures.

ITINERARY:

KIBUNGAN CIRCUIT

Kibungan, Benguet

Jumpoff (closed loop): Sitio Tanap, Poblacion, Kibungan

LLA: 1820 MASL (Tagpaya); 1875 MASL (Oten); 2105 (Tagpew)

Days required / Hours to summit: 2-3 days / 6-9 hours (Tagpaya)

Specs (Version 1): Major climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 1-4

Specs (Version 2): Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 1-4

Features: Pine ridges, mossy forests, rice terraces, village walks

Day 01:

10:00 – Cubao to Baguio

04:00 – ETA Baguio

Day 01:

04:00 – Taxi to Dangwa Terminal *Breakfast*

06:00 – Baguio to Kibungan

11:00 – ETA Poblacion, Kibungan

12:00 – Luch at Kibungan and buy supplies

01:30 – Start Trek

02:30 -  ETA Abas Community

03:30 – Start Trek to E-Camp

05:30 – ETA E-Camp Mt. Buga

Pitch Tent – Dinner – Socials – Lights Off

Day 02: Mt. Tagpaya to Mt. Oten

07:30 – wake up – breakfast – break camp

09:00 – Start trek to Mt. Tagpaya

11:00 -  ETA at Campsite *summit is 10 minutes away* *Lunch*

12:30 – Start Trek to Mt. Oten

04:30 – ETA Mt. Oten Campsite /  summit

Pitch tent – Dinner – Socials – Lights Off

Day 03: Mt Tagpew back to Tanap

06:00 – wake up – sunrise viewing – breakfast – break camp

07:30 – Start Trek

10:30 – ETA Mt. Tagpew Summit *Lunch*

01:30 – Start Descend

02:30 – Beyeng Community

03:30 – St. John Chapel

04:00 – Bato View deck

05:15 – Mayos River

07:15 – Tanap River *Hanging Bridge*

09:15 -  ETA Kibungan Poblacion

*End of Trek*

EXPENSES:

P900 – Cubao – Baguio – Cubao

P260 – Baguio – Kibungan – Baguio (P130.00 one way)

P1500 – Guide (shared – 500 per day)

P90.00 – Green Fee (30 / person x 3 days)

**Food Expenses depends on the Groups Menu**

HIKING NOTES:

-          First trip of bus from Baguio to Kibungan is 6am. Last trip at 11am

-          First trip of bus from Kibungan to Baguio is at 5am. Last trip at 11am

-          There are only 10 guides available to do the Kibungan Circuit. It is advisable to make necessary arrangements to the Municipality of Kibungan before your hike to assist you in securing a guide and porters. We highly recommend Kuya Mark :) . No need to secure a permit. The road going to Poblacion is prone to landslides.

-          There are small stores in Kibungan which you can buy your supplies, but not all that you need is available there, especially butane.

-          Cellphone Signal is available (Globe and Smart) and maybe intermittent on some part of the trail.

-          There are at least 8 water sources in Kibungan. If I can remember them correctly;

  • Abas Community
  • E-Camp Mt. Buga
  • Along the trail going to Mt. Tagpaya
  • Bulalacao going to Mt. Oten
  • Along the trail going to Mt. Tagpew
  • St. John Chapel
  • Along the trail going to Mayos River
  • Along the trail after Mayos River

-          There’s a lot of stray dogs during the night in the community, be extra cautious.

-          You can sleep at the Municipal Guest House for P200.00 per person. They have a clean restroom.

-          Hot spring in Kibungan is a perfect sidetrip :)

-          Stores in Poblacion are only available until 8pm.

-          Be courteous at all times :)

***KEEP CLIMBING*** :) :) :)

MT. Pulag : on a Rainbow Trail

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‘Life is like a rainbow, you need both the rain and sun to make the colors appear’

The cold December morning greeted the 6 of us as we alight at Victory Bus Terminal in Baguio. It was 4am and chilling. We waited for at least 30 minutes for our chartered jeep at the nearby 7-11 and board it as soon as it arrives.

‘Will we survive the cold weather at the campsite?’ I murmured as I sit comfortably inside the passenger jeep, eyes fixed on the concrete winding road. Here I am again, about to conquer another Cordillera mountain, but this time it will be the highest in Luzon, Mt. Pulag.

They say you will miss half of your mountaineering life if you haven’t climbed the famous Pulag, known for its mesmerizing grandeur and heavenly sea of clouds. When the highlands started calling me a year ago, I dreamed to set foot on this mountain. Now, before Christmas it will turn into reality.

The butt numbing ride to the jump off continued, with unlimited pine trees along the way and a good view of Ambuklao Dam. It was already 7am when the jeepney stops at Jang Jang’s Eatery where we had our breakfast.

Soon as we finished, the four of us positioned ourselves on top of the jeep. Malamig pero nagawa pa rin naming mag top load.. wuhhooooo!

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It was 9am when we reached the Akiki Jump off, a more challenging route to reach our destination, 2, 922+ masl. After meeting with the person in charge, paying all necessary fees, arranging our things, waiting for our guide and group porter, we left the ranger station an hour late to our Planned Itinerary.

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We had a taste of the ‘Killer Trail’ on the first part of the hike. It was a continue ascent, pa ahon kung pa ahon omigawwd. Not only I can feel my heart beats fast, I can hear it.. parang sinasabi yatang ‘anong ka adikan nanaman ito? Nakaka ubos to ng kabataan ha!’ nyahahahaha! :D

After 30 minutes we reached a clearing, yes! May patag na, take five muna..

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The trail whose up-and-down paths continue inside the pine forest was deja vu, it’s the same feeling I had in Mt. Ugo. It could be because of the pine trees perfectly planted by Mother Nature or the pine cones that fell from above to keep the earth company, or the gentle cold cordillera breeze, it was euphoria.

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We were provided by verdant landscape as we continue with our walk and arrived just in time at Eddet River to have our lunch.

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We still have a long way to go, wala pa nga kami sa kalahati. We did not waste any time and proceed with the trek at 1pm.

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As the trail changes into a steep ascend, so is the weather. The fog suddenly envelopes the surrounding, the drizzle adds to the goose bump that I felt. We sauntered into the Christmas land.

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Exhausted from the long walk, Josh, Ron and I decided to take a quick nap along the trail while the others were already ahead of us. Surprisingly the rain doesn’t stop us from falling asleep and dreaming.. ee pagod kasi talaga kami..haha

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30 minutes has passed, we forced ourselves to get up. We have to keep walking or else we will not make it to the saddle camp.

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4pm came and we were able to reach Marlboro Country (hangang ngayon hindi ko pa rin alam bakit yun naging Marlboro country haha). We rested again and weighed the situation. A crucial decision whether to continue the hike in the night just to reach the saddle camp to give us an amazing view on the famous sea of clouds in the morning, or to stop and rest our weary bodies and camp at Marlboro country where there is a water source. We choose the latter, and all agreed that the safety of everyone is most important than the sea of clouds.

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We immediately pitched our tents and prepare for dinner before the twilight completely fades into the night sky.

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We had our cooking show-talk show-socials-dinner in one hahaha. Had a good laugh on every SPG joke (may tema, lenggwahe, sexual, karahasan, horror at droga na angkop sa mga mountaineer na pagod??) nyahahahah!

By 9pm we all agreed to sleep while the other group of mountaineers who arrived an hour after us are still enjoying their socials filled with booze.

I slept like a cocoon in my sleeping bag. For the 2nd time inside the cordillera mountain, my tent did not disappoint me. It was a good night, too good that I don’t want to wake up yet and begged myself for more sleep. It didn’t happen though; we have to continue with our trek as early as possible, for it might give us a chance to see the majestic sunrise over the playground of the gods. Feeling hopeful nyehehehehe!

Kaya naman break camp ng madali, luto ng breakfast na madali, kape ng madali, ayos ng gamit ng madali tapos larga na.

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Together with our heavy backpack, we found ourselves once again walking on the unforgiving trail of Akiki.

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After about 2 hours, we entered the mossy forest of Montane. It was surprisingly beautiful. When the daylight touches the trees it’s as if the forest is alive.

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The bamboo dwarfs will greet you upon exiting the forest. Even if you’re already out of it, your patience will still be put into test.

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Under the blue sky, a rainbow appeared. It was fascinating. Truly, if you want to experience a rainbow, you would have to put up with a little rain, and that little rain for me are the moments when you feel like you want to go home in the middle of your climb.

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I walked continuously and found myself singing. I smiled.

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But oh, can’t you see, That no matter what happens

Life goes on and on, So baby, just  smile

Coz I’m always around you, And I’ll make you see how beautiful

Life is for you and me. .

 The picturesque view was familiar to me, i dreamed of it. The golden shrubs’ swaying slowly along trail plus a rainbow just above it was magical, and the song playing at the back of my head, it’s perfect.

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Take a little time baby, See the butterfly’s colors

Listen to the birds that were sent, To sing for me and you

Can you feel me?, This is such a wonderful place to be

Even if there is pain now, Everything would be all right

For as long as the world still turns, There will be night and day

Can you hear me?, There’s a rainbow always after the rain

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We reached the saddle at 10am. We said our usual ‘good morning po sir / mam’ to a group of mountaineers who spent the night at the campsite. They too were unfortunate to witness the ocean of lofty clouds because of uncooperative weather. The sun was up and the wind carried the drizzle of rain into my cheeks, I may not experience what the mountain is known for but hey, I walked on a rainbow trail!

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We had a long rest at the camp. Took pictures to our hearts content, had coffee and eat whatever is left on our mac and cheese breakfast. From here the summit is just 15 minutes away.

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Like most of the summits, it has a signage that bears the mountain’s name. Picture picture ulit bago mag traverse via Ambangeg Trail.

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There are 4 Trails to hike the summit of Mt. Pulag. The Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan and Ambaguio Trail which is being managed by Mount Pulag National Park. I believe any combination of this trails are possible.

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The ‘Executive Trail’, being mostly used to hike Mt. Pulag because of its effortless, straightforward trail has been massacred. Overused kumbaga. Sa dami ba naman ng umaakyat gamit ang trail na walk-in-the-park ang dating. It became a ‘Champorado Trail’.

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Whichever way we go, our shoes will always be soaked in the mud. Ang mortal na kaaway ni Josh.. nyahahhaah! It was a combination of yikes-ayyy!.. aaahhh-sheett…woooppps-muntik na! owno-lubog na-pisti!, whenever we slip.

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Halfway through, boulders were used to pave the way, it is also said that the management of Mt. Pulag are planning to continue this up to the summit, creating a more accessible, more commercialized hike for everyone.. deym! Paano na ang impact sa kalikasan??

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Anyway, after our long walk, lots of take fives?? Nah.. maybe twenties nyahahahha! We reached Babadak Ranger Station (starting point for Ambangeg Trail). The chartered jeep will wait for your group here. You can also take a shower being offered by the locals in the area or alternatively you can wash up at the DENR  Office since all mountaineering group who hiked Mt. Pulag needs to log out there. For us? We took our shower and had our dinner at Jang Jang’s Eatery before we head back to Baguio City..napamahal na sya samin hahahha!

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Looking outside the jeepney’s window, I say my prayer of thanks. Akiki was indeed a ‘Killer Trail’. It killed my eyes with unforeseen beauty and it was a painfully sweet experience. There was no ‘playground of the gods’.. no ‘magnificent sea of clouds’, but  we have a rainbow, and as they say, over the rainbow there is a pot of gold. Indeed, I found mine. My friends who joined me on this hike and the memorable stories that we shared were my own pot of gold :)

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the cast: Ron, Jeff, Me, Euge, Frank and Josh

Thank you for this amazing hike. Keep Climbing :)

**Shout out to my hiking buddy Josh for organizing this climb and thank you for letting me use some of your photos :)

ITINERARY:

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

December 20 – Day 0
2100 Assembly. Victory Liner Cubao
2200 ETD to Baguio City

December 21 – Day 1
0430 ETA Baguio City; Proceed to Chartered Jeepney; Breakfast Along the Way.
0915 Start Trek at Akiki Jump Off
1040 ETA Eddet River; Lunch Break
1140 Resume Trek
1300 ETA E-Camp; 30 Minutes Rest
1330 Resume Trek
1430 ETA Marlboro Country; 30 Minutes Rest
1500 Resume Trek
1550 ETA Montane Forest
1745 ETA Saddle Camp; Set up Camp; Assault to Summit.
1800 Sunset Viewing
1900 Dinner; Socials

December 22 – Day 2
0400 Wake-up Call
0430 Magkape Tayo
0500 Summit Assault
0520 ETA Summit. Sunrise Viewing
0600 Descent back to Saddle Campsite
0630 Heavy Breakfast
0730 Break Camp
0800 Start Descent
1000 Camp 2 Ambangeg
1100 Babadak Ranger Station
1200 ETA DENR; Log off.
1300 Lunch, Wash up.
1500 Departure
1800 ETA Baguio
2000 Departure.

3:00AM ETA Manila(Monday)

EXPENSES:

P900 – Manila-Baguio-Manila

P10.5 k – Jeep (shared)

P1.8k – Guide (shared)

P1.5k – Porter (shared)

P50.00 – Green Fee

P30.00 – Cultural Fee

P150.00 – Camping Fee / Registration Fee

**Food expenses depends on the Team’s Menu**

MT. Ugo : a Walk to Remember

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Nope.. this is not about the  story of Jamie Sullivan and  Landon Carter’s A Walk to Remember.  This is my version of their Love story which started from Kayapa, Nueva Viscaya to Itogon Benguet. It was a 2 day affair in the Cordilleras, chilling-freezing-awesome hike.

The Team of 9 met at Victory Kamuning at 10pm. We were joined by another group organized by Sir Jhay, making a total of 16 to traverse Mt. Ugo, 2150 MASL.

At exactly 11pm the bus departs to Nueva Viscaya. The travel time takes about 5 hours and I am lucky enough to get some sleep. It was already 4am when the team alights in Aritao. The cold wind welcomed us as we walked towards the sleepy market (ee dapat talaga sa CCQ Stop over ang baba namin..haha.anyare? mga excited lang haha.), from here a rented jeep will take us to Kayapa.

Buti nalang dumating din agad yung Jeep namin bago pa kami ma frozenJ. The winding road going to the jump off offers refreshing scenery. From the mountain ranges to the river bed.. definitely Cordillera.

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6am and we arrived in Kayapa Public Market, registered ourselves at the police station, met our guide and porters, had our breakfast and bought some supplies. Hinayaan na naming mauna ang 2nd Team habang kami ayy rumerelax pa sa market..pakape kape na saglit lang eh nagiging juice na sa lamig ng panahon.

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The Trek:

The team started the hike at 8am through the uphill cemented road. This kind of trail i-do-not-wish-to-encounter continued, passing some local houses. It provides us a good warm up na ang katumbas ay 100x na pagod..nyahahah. (ganyan kami, pagod agad :) )

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After roughly 30 minutes we saw the pine trees (nasa totoong trail na kami J). And if Landon and Jamie’s story started at school.. Mine was at that instance.

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The view of cordillera mountain range never fails to amaze me.  I knew from there it will not be an easy hike. One needs more than patience to see its beauty. And so with a heavy backpack I walked slowly through the pine forest.

This mountain was discovered when an airplane bound to Baguio crashed in the slopes of Mt. Ugo, killing all passengers while attempting to land during a monsoon on June 1987. The subsequent operation to retrieve the remains paved the way for trails, thus making the mountain one of the more popular and challenging hikes in Cordilleras (source PM).

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The Mountain’s name was derived from the Ibaloi word ‘Ugoan’, which means to ‘cut the neck’. So this is how the invading Spaniards were killed. When the people on this land defended their freedom, the mountain remains a silent witness.

We were near Domolpos when we decided to have Lunch on one of the Locals house. Sir Jhay’s team was already having a comfortable meal inside the house. It was almost 12 noon; we were just right in time.

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They both look like dolls na masarap iuwi sabi nga ni Josh. The house’s exterior are made of galvanized iron, has a high ceiling and bare soil as their flooring. I cannot imagine how freezing it could be during the night. The weather keeps getting colder and we found comfort on a cup of coffee being sold by Ate at their small store. As I rest my weary body outside the house, feeling the cold breeze, sipping my cup of coffee, I wonder if I would be able to live a simple life as these family have. I know life in the mountain was not very easy. And to see a happy family like them is priceless. I guess they have accepted that their lives will be spent and lived up here, together with the mountain.

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1395123_503276926436523_1706730802_nI thought of Jamie Sullivan, and just like them, she wholeheartedly accepted her fate. .while I constantly remind myself that some things are not meant to be understood but to be accepted.

The rain started to pour, providing another challenge for the team. Rain + Cold wind = Frozen Mountaineers nyahahahah.  We continued the trek to the summit at 1pm. The other Team was already ahead of us.. ee kasi nga chill lang talaga kami sa hike na ito kahit pa sabihin ni Ate guide na malamang 5pm na kami makarating sa summit dahil sa  pacing namin.

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The wide trail was a reminiscent of those in Mt. Sto. Tomas and Cabayao. We also encountered a passenger jeep along the trail. I’m not sure if it ply’s directly to Baguio or just the neighboring towns.

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1464104_627981050595002_1367445094_nWe walked, walked and walked. Took pictures and had a group selfie..mga 50x yata. Shared some personal stories ..alam mo yan Mikey. Had a lot of take five’s. Enjoyed the picture perfect scenery and got surrounded by cows. Run away from the cows! Nyahahahah.. na ambush kasi kami hangang waiting shed.

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We laugh, laugh and laugh some more on the long but happy trail. Took more pictures and encountered some limatik.. at ngayon ko lang nalaman na may limatik din pala ang cordillera mountains.

The last leg of the trail was a continue ascent up to the camp site. With the impact made by the long walk on my knees and feet I don’t have a choice but to walk slowly. If it’s not for Josh and Mikey who keep me company I’ll be walking alone for an hour J thank you guys sa pag damay.. at syempre ang ultimate palusot naten ayy sweeper tayo nyahahahah!

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We were the last to arrive at the campsite by 5pm. Most of the tents were already pitched, so without wasting any time, we setup our own. Our guide and porter informed us that they will spend the night at the school just below the site and will be back by 7am. We thanked them and bid goodbye.

The fog surrounds the site making it hard for us to move.. ang lamig lamig kasi.. may kasama pang ulan. Since we were all hungry, we immediately prepare for dinner. Sir ace Vergel was in charge of the rice while me, after discovering that I have a talent in cooking.. agree naman kayo diba Josh? Nyahahaha! Cooked a hearty-spicy-sinigang ala siling labuyo  at inuulit ko.. sa campsite lang lumalabas ang talent kong yan :)

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We used one of the tents for our socials ala cooking show since we can’t cook outside due to the weather.

I think it was 8pm when we call it a night. Each of us tried to be comfortable against the freezing environment. The strong wind doesn’t have any plans of stopping; making it difficult for the others to sleep. Good thing my tent, a Luxe Firefly was able to stand the weather. Not even a single leak of water or moist build up inside my shelter J I even shared a space to a co-mountaineer. One of the many lessons I learned from the past is to be self-contained. No one is responsible for your own safety but yourself.

So after saying my thanks to Him for keeping us safe, I closed my eyes and let my consciousness slip into a dream.

My Faith and the Sea of Clouds:

‘Please wag muna tayo mag break camp. Ang aga pa at ang lamig-lamig. May hinahabol ba tayong last trip?’ I keep on repeating this phrase on my mind, with my eyes closed and body curled up.

I can hear their shaky voices from the outside; some were already asking where the coffee was kept and the other stuff so they can prepare for breakfast. From time to time they would shout ‘ang lamig-lamig!’

I slowly convinced my eyes to check on the time, t’was 4 am.owno.. 30 minutes pa..please. I want to sleep some more..

Those 30 minutes turned into an hour. When I step outside my tent I was the only one left to eat breakfast. Buti nalang mabilis ako kumain  at mag ligpit ng tent. I learned from my team that most of them were not able to sleep (kaya pala ma aga sila bumangon), their tents were flooded by rain, and they battled the night wet and cold.

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Despite of this, they enthusiastically shared their disastrous night experience to all of us. We laugh and tease those whose snores were able to surpass the windy night hahaha.  These moments is another piece on each of our Mountain Stories.. pang throwback lang ang datingan :)

I can see the sun shyly peeping through the gray clouds as we patiently waited for Mother Nature to show us what we came for. And then.. Slowly, the Sea of Clouds magically appeared.  It was unexplainable beauty.

‘How can you see places like this.. and have moments like this and not believe? A question struck me as I gaze in awe. The moment answered most of the thoughts I had in mind. I’ve been trying to reconnect with my Faith for quite some time, and to be honest it is not easy but I know I’m getting there.

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The Sea of Clouds slowly being touched by the golden sunlight was not only beauty beyond words, it was my miracle.

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Traversing the Pine Forest:

As the scenery completely fades, we all decided to continue the trek to the summit of Mt. Ugo. It was I think a good 30 minute ascent. There’s nothing much to see on the summit but a signage bearing the mountain’s name and its elevation as a landmark. There is also a gravestone with the name of those who departed from the tragic accident .Picture picture ulit and a short prayer before we go down to continue our traverse 15km to Itogon Benguet.

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The trails were wide and established. There are pine trees everywhere, and when the fog embraces them, it’s as if you are entering a different world. Mala twilight ang dating :)

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Although we were rewarded by very relaxing views, my feet do not enjoy it as much as my eyes did. It was a very exhausting walk with a couple of ups and downs and cows blocking the trail. Konti na lang at putol paa na talaga.

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My feet hurts, and its telling me that they can no longer endure another kilometer, pinapakiusapan ko nalang silang lumakad..haha.

And because of this I was the last on the trail, well sinamahan naman ako ni Mikey at Martin, such good guys :) and we called ourselves as the 3rd team, the Team Sweeper!

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While our team mates were already 4 km ahead of us we still manage to take a lot of take fives or should I say take 20 (minutes ) in every 500 meters.. hahahaha.

The consequence? None of us has a trail food. So we ended up walking with a growling stomach, parang Walker lang kami, pwede ng cast sa The Walking Dead. We almost imagined each pine cone on the trail if not a pineapple, a sugar apple.. oh diba..gutom talaga. . My smile only appears once I saw a km marker, an indication that we had finished another kilometer but yet to conquer some more.

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12nn came and were still walking. As much as we would like to have lunch, we have nothing but water to fill our empty stomach.. gusto ko na ngang gawing trail food yung dalang biogesic ni Mikey :)

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Sir Jhay’s Team were able to keep up with us.. sadyang mabibilis sila at malalakas kaya naman nahiya kami at pinilit na naming maging zombie ulit sa trail.

On the last 4 km of the trail we could almost see the hanging bridge, it was a slight relief.. slight kasi masakit pa rin ang paa ko.

We were walking above postcard perfect scenery, with a portion of Agno River below and a distant view of Ambuklao Dam. A rainbow also appeared after a drizzle of rain, maybe to applaud us for getting that far and for surviving the long walk.

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After passing a community and some rice paddies, we found ourselves in the bridge. Happiness at last! Of course a picture on a hanging bridge is mandatory.. hahahah. We took some photos and enjoyed the last view of what we could see.

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After the last 500 meters a concrete road appeared. Civilization Hooray! From here a rented jeep will take us to Itogon Barangay Hall, where we need to do a courtesy call, logged out and received our certificates. Josh and the rest were waiting at a local’s house beside the road, already finished tidying up. Mountaineers can take a shower here for a fee; they have a small store too and a cold drink is guaranteed after the hike. Alternatively, the barangay offers a free shower.. so that’s what we did :)

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The hike was completed with a sore feet, empty tummy, picture from everyone, our own version of awarding ceremony with the Barangay Chairman na ipinasundo pa namin, lots of laughter and shared stories and above all unlimited brewed coffee fresh from Benguet :)

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If Jamie died in the movie, the only casualty here was my toe nails. Mt. Ugo was indeed extraordinary. Not only a long walk worth remembering but to be cherished <3

Thank you to my friends who joined me on this Hike. Keep Climbing!

**Photo Credits to : Josh, Mikey and Rache

Mt. Ugo Itinerary:

Mt. Ugo Traverse (Kayapa -Itogon)

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

November 22

10:00 – meet up at Sampaloc Victory Liner

10:30 – departure to Aritao Nueva Vizcaya

November 23

05:00 – arrival at CCQ stop-over Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, board rented jeepney

05:30 – departure to Kayapa

06:45 – arrival at Kayapa, register at PNP

07:00 – start trek

07:45 – start of pine forest

09:30 – arrival at Indupit Village, rest/breakfast

10:00 – continue trek to Dumolpos

11:00 – arrival at Mt. Samiento

12:00 – arrival at Waiting shed near Dumolpos Lunch

13:00 – continue trek to summit

14:00 – arrival at last water source

15:40 – arrival at summit, rest, relax

17:00 – prepare dinner

18:30 – dinner socials

22:00 – lights out

November 24

06:00 – wake up, sunrise viewing

07:00 – prepare breakfast

08:00 – breakfast/breakcamp

09:00 – start trek to Lusod

12:00 – arrival at Lusod, lunch

13:00 – Continue trek to Kawayan

14:30 – arrival at Kawayan Village, rest

15:00 – arrival at Foot Bridge

15:10 – arrival at Bang house,

15:20 – arrival at Brgy hall of Tinongdan, logout tidy up

16:30 – departure to Baguio

17:00 – arrival at Baguio, dinner

21:20 – departure from Baguio to Manila

*will arrive at Manila 03:00 AM the next morning

* Itinerary is based on Tramping Philippines IT.

Expenses:

Bus-Cubao-Aritao > P289.00

Chartered Jeep Aritao-Kayapa > P2,500.00

Guide Fee > P 500.00 / day

Registration Fee at Tinogdan >P100.00 each

Chartered Jepp Tinogdan-Baguio > P2,200.00

Baguio-Cubao > P450.00

Porter > P400.00 / day

**Yung gastos po ng Food depende po sa menu ng Team**

Camiguin, my favorite Daydream

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‘anong gagawin mo bukas? Pupunta ka pa ba sa Mantigue at White Island? Kuya Ronald asked me. ‘Hindi na po, wala na rin po kasi akong pang arkila ng bangka’

When I saw a promo fare going to Cagayan de Oro on the internet I immediately booked a flight without hesitation. My friend asked me ‘ano naman ang gagawin mo sa Cagayan de Oro ng mag isa? Mga ra-raffting ka ng mag-isa?!’ I just smiled and told her ‘pupunta ako ng Camiguin’ :)

So after a week of planning my Itinerary and searching on the how- to-get-there stuff on the net, I packed my bag and told my brother where I’m going and head to the airport.

Mindanao is a dream destination for me. I am always fascinated by its people, places and culture, and going on a solo backpacking on its Northern part will be a feat.

The plane landed on Laguindingan Airport at 6am. From here, private cars can take you to Cagayan de Oro City.. alas-puno ang alis ng sasakyan.

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It was an hour ride from the Airport going to the City of Golden Friendship. I asked the driver to drop me off Agora bus terminal. When he found out I came from Manila and will go to Camiguin alone, he walked me to the terminal and made sure I boarded the correct bus. Thank you po :)

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It was a 2 hour ride going to Balingoan, where a ferry can take you to Benoni port of Camiguin.

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The blue sky meets the azure water as the ferry sailed smoothly into the open sea.

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It was lunch time when I arrived at the port and took a motorela from Benoni to Mambajao where Kuya Ronald, my guide in the island is waiting.

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After we took our lunch and checked in at Enigmata Ecolodge, my half day tour on the Island Born of Fire begins.

Camiguin, although the second smallest province in the country (next to Batanes) has a lot to offer, from beaches, marine sanctuary, rainforest, waterfalls, springs, the choice is yours.

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I haven’t seen an Ostrich up close, so our first stop is the Provincial Breeding Centre and Ostrich Farm 300 meters off the highway in Mahinog.

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Then all that remains of 1598 settlement, the Moro Watch Tower. You can climb the tower for a great view towards Mindanao. It is located inside the Guinsiliban Central School.

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I also checked out Sto Rosario Church. Built in 1882, it has a unique interior of Sawali walls, driftwood chandeliers and adobe stone altar.

From here, my habal-habal road trip proceeds to the Old Church Ruins. Located in Bonbon, 13 kilometers from Mambajao, overlooking the sea are the remains of the 16th century Spanish Church destroyed by the 1871 eruption.

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Afterwards, we went to Brgy. Mainit to see Tuasan Falls, cascading beautifully  25 meters down into a rocky pool.

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And then to top my first afternoon in the island, we went to see a tangerine sunset.

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The Sunken Cemetery being the most photographed attraction in Camiguin is located on the National Highway in Bonbon, 12 kilometers from Mambajao. A majestic cross marks where the original Spanish cemetery disappeared into the sea during the 1871 eruption.

There’s no entrance fee however if you wish to go to the Cross, you will have to take a quick boat ride for 50 pesos; at least that’s what they offered me.

After kuya Ronald and I had dinner, he drove me back to the Ecolodge.

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I woke up to the sound of thunder and heavy rain as it pours on the nipa roof of the room where I was sleeping. It was midnight when I checked on my watch and went back to the dreamland soon as I grabbed my blanket.

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At exactly 5am I heard kuya Ronald’s motorcycle outside the Lodge. I was all ready for my next adventure, traversing the famous Mt. Hibok-Hibok, 1332 masl. Without further delay we drove to Mambajao to eat breakfast and start our trek from Yumbing to Ardent. We were blessed with such good weather.

There are seven Volcanoes in Camiguin. Mounts Hibok-hibok, Vulcan, Guinsiliban, Mambajao, Tres Marias, Uhay and Timpoong being the highest in the island.

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*The details of my climb will be posted on a separate entry* :)

Since we used the Ardent Trail for our Traverse, a dip into the famous hot spring is a must. Hot spring addict mode on. Tanggal lahat ng pagod sa pag akyat… yehheeeyyyy!

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Ardent Hibok-hibok Spring Resort is centered on a series of hot water pools which range in temperature from 39 degree – 32 degree Celsius. Picnic facilities, accommodations and massage are available 24 hours.

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Kuya Ronald asked me if I wanted to visit the other attractions in Camiguin. I answered him with a smiley YES. So after that relaxing hot spring experience, we went to the Philvocs Observatory Station. The Station has a museum and a sweeping view across to Bohol.

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I also visited the highest water falls in the island, the Katibawasan waterfalls plunging 75m into a large rock pool which is perfect for a refreshing dip. The falls are approximately 5 km from Mambajao on the road running past the Provincial Capitol. Entrance is P20.00.

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To end my second day in Camiguin, I had a taste of their Special Halo-halo and the famous Pastel (yema filled bun) for dinner.. nagtitipid na nyahahahah.

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‘anong gagawin mo bukas? Pupunta ka pa ba sa Mantigue at White Island? Kuya Ronald asked me. ‘Hindi na po, wala na rin po kasi akong pang arkila ng bangka’ I told him.

One of the downside of travelling solo is that you don’t have anyone to share your expenses with. So I simply cannot afford to rent the whole motor boat to go to these two islands. Also I have plans on going to Iligan after this.

Then Kuya Ronald said ‘yun lang ba? May guest akong darating bukas, mag isa lang din sya. Sabay na kayo pumunta sa Mantigue at White island para may kahati ka sa bangka’. Yehhhheeeyyyyy! Problem solved.

The guest kuya Ronald is referring will have her island tour first when she arrives, then we will go island hopping afterwards. And so my 3rd morning in Camiguin was comfortably spent on this hammock with the vivid flowers dancing through the gentle morning breeze and the melody created by the chirping birds, these moments I used to daydream.

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I spent 2 comfortable nights at Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge. It’s an art camp and a non-profit social enterprise located 5 km east of Mambajao.  It’s a haven for those who are passionate for the arts.

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the reception

the reception

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If you are a party goer, or one of those who cannot take off their hands in the videoke’s microphone, or those who wanted to have a five star resort accommodations.. this place might not be for you. It’s quite far from the crowd and rest of the resorts in the island. A good thing for me though because I’m not a fan of crowded places and a P300.00 rate per night is a good deal for every budget traveller.

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It was around 12 noon when I’ve met Ivy. She will also spend the night at the Ecolodge. After she checked in we first went to Mantigue Island Nature Park.

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It’s a palm fringed island with pristine white sand excellent for diving and snorkeling with a distant view of Mt. Timpoong, located off Barangay San Roque, 2km from Mahinog.

We saved the best for last. It’s the jewel in Camiguin’s crown, the White Island. It’s a perfect place to swim, snorkel and enjoy magnificent sunrises and sunsets and a good view of Mt. Hibok-hibok.

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Ivy is one bubbly backpacker from Ilocos. Before she came to Camiguin, she’s been roaming around Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon. There was an instant connection between the two of us that we started talking and sharing not just each of our travel stories even personal ones. For me she’s not just another person I’ve met on one of my backpacking adventures, with her I have found a sister.

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Camiguin is a beauty. From spectacular landscapes, rugged mountains, hot and cold springs, amazing volcanoes, priceless underwater treasures and white sand beaches, truly it’s a sanctuary for restless soul. A place where I will forever day dreamed of.

On board the ferry going back to Cagayan de Oro, Ivy and I looked back at the island with a big smile and an adventure filled hearts.

Thank you, Camiguin. :)

How to Get There:

-          Daily flights from Manila to Cagayan de Oro are available with fare ranging from P1500.00 or above one way. I’ve got mine as a promo.

-          Direct flights from Manila to Camiguin is available, just check the leading Airline Companies.

-          From Laguindingan Aiport to Cagayan de Oro, you may take a private car or vans for P200.00 each. Alas-puno ang alis nila.

-          Then asked the driver to drop you off Agora Bus Terminal and board a bus up to Balingoan Pier. Fare is P143.00 + P2.00 Terminal Fee. Travel time is 2hrs. The bus will stop at Balingoan Bus terminal and from here you can walk up to the pier or ride a tricycle. Fare is P7.00.

-          From Balingoan Pier ride a ferry to Benoni Port for P170.00 + other minimal fees such as environmental and terminal fee. Travel time may take 1.5 – 2 hrs.

-          Take a motorela from the Port to Mambajao Camiguin. Fare is P23.00.

Travel Notes:

-          Upon arrival at Benoni Port Camiguin, tour guides will approach you to offer their services. If you do not have any contact in the island you may avail this. Negotiate with the price. I highly recommend Kuya Ronald Rabile – 09106593349 / 09059783183. He’s also a registered guide if you are planning to hike any of the volcanoes in Camiguin especially Mt. Hibok-hibok.

-          The best way to tour the island is via a habal-habal. If you are travelling on a group you can rent a van or a Motorela (muticab). Price range P1700.00 – P2500.00 good for 8-12 persons.

-          For the adventurous ones, you may asked for a copy of the islands map at the Tourism Office and rent a motorcycle (P500.00 per day I think not including the gas) and visit the different tourist attraction by yourself, just make sure you know how to drive nyahaha :)

-          The Boat rental going to Mantigue and White Island will cost P500.00 (6pax) + environmental fees (usually P20.00 or less).

-          Don’t Forget to try Kilawin na Tanigue, the best Halo-halo at Café 1914, the islands sweetest Lanzones and the famous and delicious Pastel (P70.00 half box)

-          Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge is serving meals. They offer affordable and delicious food which comes in big serving.

-          The rooms at Enigmata are non-air-conditioned; don’t worry for the rooms are well ventilated allowing fresh air inside. Just don’t forget to bring insect repellent lotion to keep away mosquitoes and bugs as you will sleep on a tree house.

-          Ferries going to Bohol are also available. If you still have plenty of time take this trip and explore another island. Who knows what adventure is waiting for you there :)

-          Don’t forget to Enjoy each moment and follow your instinct.

-          Smile and make friends.

**Happy Backpacking** :)