travel and hiking adventures around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Review : Asus ZenFone 2 Laser

Check out my experience using an Asus ZenFone 2! :)

Hiking 6 peaks over the weekend

Click to read about one of my all-time favorite hiking adventures. :)

Osprey Pack : Nova

My new reliable backpacking buddy

Hiking in Bukidnon

A day hike to Mt. Kitanglad and Dulang-Dulang

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hiking in Palaui : Lagunzad-Leonardo Trails

a view of  Palaui landscape from  Cape Engano Lighthouse
Palaui is a picturesque island, known for its beaches, in Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, on the northeastern side of the Philippines.  In 2013, it was included in CNN's 100 World's Best Beaches along with Puka beach in Boracay and El Nido, Palawan.  It was also the filming site for the 27th and 28th season of US reality show, SurvivorFor our group however, the main draw of this remote island was the prospect of discovering hiking trails. :) 

Despite receiving local & international media attention and its tourism taking off, it has maintained its raw beauty. There aren't any hotels or big modern structures here.  Those who want to spend a night would either have to camp or avail of a homestay (like we did) that offers basic amenities. Travelers who don't want to rough it up may opt for a day trip and stay in the mainland of Sta. Ana where there are hotels or travel from Tuguegarao city (where the airport is, but that's 3 hours away) *Check out hotels in Sta. Ana in Agoda.

After a 20 minute boat ride from San Vicente pier, our group which included  Gid, Coby, Julius, Tony, Gonz, Charles and Gab arrived at Punta Verde, the community where the homestays are located. As we neared the island,I looked in the water, it was like glass, you could see through it.  I excitedly put a hand out in the water which felt warm, my first encounter with Palaui!
Palaui Island is declared as a protected landscape and seascape.  Mutilating, defacing  or destroying objects of natural beauty, or objects of interest to cultural communities (of scenic value) and other prohibited acts is punishable by law as stated in Republic Act 7586.
The water was low, the boat had to stop just before the shore. We had to walk a few feet in the water. The sand is light brown and felt a bit coarse on the feet. Thankfully, our homestay was close to where we docked. 
arrival in Palaui island
After putting our bags down,  some of us decided to walk around to find a store and get  some water and Gatorade.  We just came from a two day hike of Mt. Cagua, an active volcano  in Gonzaga, Cagayan Valley and we were running low on trail food and water. (Travel tip : Buy your supplies before you get to Palaui as there aren't many options in the island.) 

As we roamed the island, we saw children playing outside their homes, a rare and relaxing sight for me. We also spent a few minutes by the shore, staring at the glassy water and  listening to the sound of the wind. :) It was close to 6:00 PM, still early but it was already very quiet around the island.   

Our accommodation at Madam Elsa's place had two rooms and two bathrooms. It costs 250/head a night which was a good deal. The beds were supposed to fit 8 of us but we would be brushing on each other's skin if we pushed it. It would be quite awkward especially for me, the lone female in the group. Although the group's chemistry was good, most of us had just met a few days before. :P Two people in our group slept outside the rooms to get a good sleep. 
Welcoming sunrise by the shore
At 5:30 AM the next morning,  we set off for our hike.  Our group, with 8 people had to get  two well-trained guides. One of them gave us a briefing and took the lead while the other, ate Noni, stayed at the back of the pack, ensuring that no one got left behind.  We headed off first to Lagunzad trail,named after Filipino ecologist Dan Lagunzad who helped identified the flora and fauna in the island. Its entry point near the beach gave us a good view of the sunrise.  It would have been a more glorious sight if not for the clouds partially covering the sun as it rose over a pink sky.  

The trail involved some light hiking passing inside a forest filled with marked trees and to a wide grassland with rolling terrain  reminiscent of the landscape I've seen in Batanes.  The highlight of the trail is what remains of  Cape Engano, a lighthouse built during the Spanish colonization period, completed in 1898. (Note : Those who don't want to hike can opt for a boat ride from Punta Verde). Situated on a hill, it not only offers a glimpse of history but also scenic viewing areas featuring Dos Hermanas island, Siwangag cove and sections of Babuyan group of islands. 
Cape Engano Lighthouse
After visiting the lighthouse, we ate our packed breakfast (ordered from our homestay) at the registration area. There's a restroom and a store where you can buy cold drinks and souvenirs. 

Below's a clip of the view from the lighthouse. :) 

Our route back to Cape Engano was through Leonardo's trail, named after another renowned Filipino botanist,  Leonardo Co, who also studied plant species in the island. Those who have taken an interest on Philippine plants would be no stranger to his name. (Check out a snippet of a documentary on Leonard Co's early life here.) With his unfortunate passing in 2010, I find it sad that I could no longer have the chance to meet such an inspiring man of science. (Trivia : Lagunzad and Leonardo's trail were inaugurated in 2011 in honor of Daniel Lagunzad and Leonardo Co, two great Filipino botanists who conducted field studies in Palaui. Source :Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society Inc.

Leonardo's trail was three times tougher than Lagunzad trail with its steep rolling sections.  When taking this trail, I advise you to bring ample  snacks, water and footwear with good traction. It's a challenging hike and not advisable for those with knee injuries.  

By 12 noon,  we were back to our homestay in Punta Verde where lunch of lobster, fish and shrimp was waiting. :) After another two hours, we boarded a boat back to San Vicente Port so we can travel back to Manila in the evening via Tuguegarao. 

An account of our hike in Palaui island is also posted on Gid's site, Pinoy Mountaineer.

Palaui Travel Information  
How to get to Palaui Island - check out this helpful guide by Lakwatsero.
Other sources : 
Out of Town Blog : Palaui Travel Guide
Two Monkeys Travel Group : Palaui and Tuguegarao DIY Guide

Notes :
- apart from hiking, other activities include island hopping, snorkeling, diving. Once in Palaui island, it is easy to ask around and arrange tours.
- Smart has limited network signal  in Palaui (no LTE but I could send out a few texts on some parts of the island). 
- no ATMs or credit card facility, bring enough cash
- bring insect repellent (if spending a  night at homestays) and  power banks or extra batteries as power supply is limited.
- aside from visiting Palaui island, you can combine it with a trip to Callao Caves in Penablanca. (Travel info here.)
- bus fare from Victory Liner Kamias to Tuguegarao is 850 PHP, first class. Travel time is 11 hours (as of January 2016). To shorten travel time, you can also fly to Tuguegarao or Laoag from Manila via PAL (flag carrier of the Philippines) or Cebu Pacific (budget airline).

Thanks again Julius De Vera (for arranging the logistics), Gideon Lasco (for organizing the group) and to the rest of my awesome hiking buddies Coby, Gonz, Tony, Charles and Gab. :) 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Backpacking Benguet & Bataan

Approaching Gungol Rock in Mt. Ulap, Benguet
After months of traveling with friends and meeting new people, it was time again for a much needed "me time" that involves a little hiking and eating awesome food! With limited time to plan, I decided to go to Baguio and Bataan. These are actually 7 hours away from each other by bus but both have destinations I've been wanting to visit, Mt. Ulap in Benguet and San Miguel Peak & Stregato Gelateria in Bataan.  To maximize my leaves at work, I compressed my visit to Baguio and Bataan in a 3D 2N itinerary which I'm sharing with you. It's a little tight on the schedule but I got the kind of experience I wanted. :) I encourage you to tweak this itinerary to suit your preference. I also included suggestions on alternative destinations to help you plan your next adventure. 
Inside Joy Bus to Baguio 
Day 1 - Travel to Baguio
10:00 AM - Depart for Baguio from Genesis Cubao via the super comfy Joy Bus (The ride was so smooth, I felt like I was traveling on a plane!)
3:00 PM - Arrival in Baguio
- Check in at Hotel 45 extension  (hotel information below)
- Early Dinner at Ili Ilikha Artist Village. Ili Likha is a cluster of creatively decorated food stalls serving healthy comfort food. The entire place itself is an artwork! Some food stalls open at 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM (some close at a later time). One of the food stalls I frequent is Urban Kamote. Its specialty is balbacua, a very tasty soup dish in Southern Mindanao, similar to beef stew. *Meals  start at 60 Pesos. 
- Visit Burnham Park. I never get tired of visiting this place because here you can people watch and grab some street food like strawberry taho, ice cream and dried manges. There's also a dancing fountain and light show that starts around 6:00 PM. 

NOTE :  As an alternate IT, you can leave Manila at night so you can have a full day in Baguio. A good source of travel information is Go Baguio. Consider your hotel's check-in time as not all hotels can accommodate you earlier. If you leave Manila by 11:00 PM, you'll most likely arrive before 5:00 AM the next day. For a super early grub, try Pizza Volante and Zola Restaurant, both along Session road and Good Taste (Cariño St., behind Baguio Center Mall). These are all open 24 hours as of this writing. 

Day 2 - Mt. Ulap Day Hike
8:00 AM - Take jeep at Lakandula street. Route is Ampucao. (Fare is 30 PHP, travel time : 45 minutes)
8:45 AM - Arrival at Brgy. Ampucao. From the highway, walk towards the direction of Ampucao school to get to the barangay hall. You need to register and get a  guide (400 PHP for group of 5, day hike).
9:00 AM - start hiking. Our route was a traverse from Brgy. Ampucao to Brgy. Sta. Fe. The trail approaching Sta. Fe is steep and slippery, not ideal for those with knee injuries but what makes it exciting is seeing the sacred Pong-ol burial caves along the way and crossing several hanging bridges.
12:30 PM - End of hike. 
There is a wash up area before you exit the highway where you can change clothes and grab quick meals. If exiting from Sta. Fe, public transpo back to Baguio can be challenging as most vehicles that passed by were already full so my guide and I just hitched a ride back to Brgy. Ampucao where there were more trips. 
3:00 PM - Take jeep back to Baguio. 
4:00 PM - Back in Baguio (Link to detailed IT to Mt. Ulap is posted below)
- Check in at Benguet Prime Hotel (1,200 PHP, single bed). This hotel is shabby but it has a good location along Session road and is close to banks and the stores. The customer service is amazing. They make you feel at home. :)  Complimentary breakfast is satisfying too. 
- Dinner at Azotea Greens, a vegetarian restaurant along Session road. (Located inside Azotea Building near KFC and 7 Eleven)
Visit Mt. Cloud Bookshop (Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road, back of SM). This bookshop is a good place for perusing works of local writers.  Within the same building are  Casa Vallejo (one of Baguio's10 oldest institutions turned into a boutique hotel) North Haven spa (a friend loves their massage services!), Cinematheque (a screening area for independent films) and Hill Station, one of the city's most popular restaurants. 

Day 3 - Quick hike and food trip in Bataan
10:15 AM - Depart from Genesis terminal to Mariveles, Bataan
Travel time to Mariveles took 7 hours. 
Tip : Instead of traveling to Bataan,you can choose to explore the rest of Baguio on the third day. Links to alternative Baguio IT can be found below.
5:00 PM - Arrival in Mariveles. Tell bus conductor to drop you off at BASECO Compound/ SSS Building in Mariveles.Take a tricycle to Barangay Sisiman. Tell the driver to take you to the grotto. (Fare : 60 PHP, travel time, 15-20 minutes)
5:15 PM - arrival in Barangay Sisiman. Start hiking to the peak for the sunset
5:20 PM  - reached the peak. (yes, hike  was very short! :P).  Even if the travel time was crazy longer than the actual hike, I still consider it a worthwhile stop. The peak  offers a view of Corregidor island, Mariveles bay and its surrounding coastal community.  :) 
6:00 PM - take tricycle to bus station in Mariveles
6:15 PM - take bus to Balanga (around 20 PHP). 
NOTE : Also near the bus station in Mariveles is Pupung's Grill, a recommended place for dining with a beach view. 
7:15 PM - arrival in Balanga. Take tricycle to Balanga plaza (8 PHP). 
*Plaza Mayor de Balanga  is a beautiful complex with a design inspired by a UNESCO World Heritage site, Plaza Mayor in Spain. It also has a dancing fountain and light show in the evening.
- Dinner at Stregato Gelateria, a pretty cafe within the plaza complex that serves comfort food, coffee and gelato. I ordered a mocha gelato frap which was very good! I will go back for their beef dishes to try more food! :) 
9:00 PM - took the last trip from Balanga to Cubao via Bataan Transit (200 PHP).
There are several accommodation in Mariveles and Balanga town proper. You can stay for another day (Links to possible side trips below).
12:00 MN - arrival in Cubao
*Trip was last December 4-6, 2015
Sunset at San Miguel Peak in Brgy. Sisiman, Mariveles, Bataan
How to Get to Baguio from Cubao/Pasay?
Joy Bus is the executive coach of Genesis transport company. The seats are comfortable and has a more spacious leg room. You also get a free snack and bottled water on board. Blankets will also be provided.  Tip : Get a seat farthest from the restroom.
Bus tickets for Joy Bus  can be bought at the Genesis terminal in Cubao or Pasay. You can also book tickets online  via  iWantSeats. Fare is 690. Travel time : 5 hours via TPLEX. 

Victory Liner is another reliable bus company that has terminals in Cubao and Pasay. Website. Fare is 450 PHP from Cubao terminal. 

Where to Stay to Baguio?
For cheap accommodation near upper Session Road, try Hotel 45 Extension (near the back of SM). Rates start at 1,000 PHP off peak season. Peak season are bookings that fall during Panagbenga Festival, Philippine holidays. *There are two branches of Hotel 45 identified as "main" and "extension". Main is at the heart of Session road and is much older. I prefer staying at Hotel 45 extension which is near Upper Session road, behind SM and walking distance from my favorite bookshop, Mt. Cloud. 

Other hotels I've tried and recommend :
Microtel Inn - love its location which is connected to Victory Liner terminal
Azalea Residences - it's like having your own condo in Baguio :) 
For other budget accommodation, check out this post by Senyor Lakwatsero which I found quite helpful. 
*Check out discounted hotel rates in Baguio via Agoda.

Hiking Info - Mt. Ulap, Ampucao, Benguet
As of last visit, there was no need to coordinate in advance but if you have additional questions, you can contact Ms. Maia of Brgy. Ampucao Tourism, +63 998-958-9549 (mobile no.)Detailed hiking itinerary of Mt. Ulap hereOther nearby hiking destinations in Baguio are Mt. Sto. Tomas and Cabuyao, Osocan Spanish trail, Mt. Timbac and Osdung.  For a challenging day hike try a traverse in Mt. Ugo. *All itineraries can be found on my friend's blog, Pinoy Mountaineer. :)

Places to Visit around Baguio? 
Below are other helpful resources in backpacking Baguio : 
Lakad Pilipinas -   Baguio City Travel guide.
Rappler - Baguio weekend itinerary

Where to eat in Baguio? 
Ili Likha Artist Village - Assumption Road (Map here). This street is near Session Road, on the same side as Don Henrico's and Baguio Cathedral. Meals start at 65 PHP. 
Other favorites include Pizza Volante (Camp John Hay branch), Hill Station, Azotea Greens, Te Quiero Tapas Bar and Restaurant (beside Microtel Inn), Ketchup Community (it's a compound with several restaurants)
Check out 15 amazing Baguio City Eats

How to Get to Bataan from Cubao/Pasay?
Genesis has terminals in Cubao and Pasay. Bataan Transit has a terminal in Cubao. 
Genesis Bus terminal in Cubao, map here
Fare to Mariveles is 290 PHP (aircon bus from Cubao via Genesis). 
Fare to Balanga is 200 PHP (aircon bus from Cubao via Genesis)

How to Get to Bataan from Baguio City?
There is a Genesis bus from Baguio to Mariveles. Fare is 522 PHP and travel time is 7 hours. The terminal is along Governor Pack Road. 
*Schedules below (*subject to change, please confirm with the bus company Website here.)
5:15 AM/6:15 AM/7:15 AM/9:15 AM/10:15 AM /11:15 AM/12:15 PM/1:15 PM 

Where to stay in Balanga, Bataan? 
There are several inns and hotels in Balanga.  I've stayed and enjoyed my experience at The Plaza. :)  You can book on Agoda. You can also find a listing of other hotels with discounted rates on their site.

Places to visit around Bataan? Check out these helpful blogs :  
EAZY Traveler - Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar
Ironwulf - Bataan Out and About
Travel Up - Where to Go in Bataan
Filipina Explorer -Sisiman Lighthouse

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gears : Keen Uneek Footwear

Keen Uneek is a durable and stylish outdoor sandal made from two cords and a sole. I've been using it for weeks now - on travels and in running errands around the city.  I can't express enough how comfortable it is.  I can hardly feel the cords when I  move, which was my initial concern because I tend to wander a lot :P. I was worried the cords or strap at the back might cause friction on my skin.  Fortunately, after a short break-period of a day or two, it now feels like it's part of my foot. At a  weight of 252 grams, it's very light and easy to move with (doesn't weight that much inside your bag too!).

It comes in various colors for men and women (check here). Mine is Gargoyle/Bright Chartreuse (I just call it baby yellow :)) Its design is a nice cross between girly and tough,  is easy to pair with neutral color clothing. 

If you're always on the go and don't want any fuss on the laces, its locking system is an advantage. There's a cord at the instep and you just need to pull it to secure. Also notice that your toes are partially covered and there's some space  in the front area of the sole under your toes, providing stub protection.  If you're a little uncoordinated or get easily distracted like me, you can appreciate how important this is. :) 

Keen Uneek is an ideal footwear for travelers  who love getting acquainted to a place by walking and for outdoor lovers looking for a bit of adventure on the trails. It's the footwear you can rely on for hours of walking around the city and on short nature hikes. I'm also interested to see how it fairs on wet surfaces such as waterfalls and rivers but I haven't had the chance to test it.  For water activities, I recommend Keen Venice H2 which I've used on waterfalls trekking. It's a women's sandal, for guys, there's Newport H2.

Here's a  closer look on Keen Uneek. You can also find user reviews on YouTube, just run "Keen Uneek" on the search button. :)

Product Information :
Keen is a brand from the US and it's heartwarming to know that the people behind it has helped with the relief efforts for typhoon Yolanda survivors, donating 30,000 pairs of shoes last year. Story here
Weight per shoe: 8.9 oz/252.3 g
Category: Casual, Outdoor
Activity: City, Beach
Weather: Warm 
Upper: Polyester braided cord
Lining: N/A
Rubber: Non-marking rubber outsole
Price : Retails around 5,000-6,000 PHP (will post the actual price soon) 

Where to  buy Keen in the Philippines? 
R.O.X. Bonifacio High Street, Taguig 
R.O.X. Marquee Mall, Pampanga
R.O.X. Camp John Hay, Baguio
R.O.X. Ayala Center, Cebu
R.O.X. Centrio, Cagayan de Oro
Res | Toe | Run Palawan
Res | Toe | Run Avenue Square, Naga
Landmark Trinoma, Quezon City (Ground Floor, Men's Sportswear)
Royal Sporting House Festival Mall, Muntinlupa

Website and Online store (for buyers in the US) : Keen
Keen Philippines Facebook Page : Keen Footwear PH 

Disclosure : 
This post is a collaboration with Keen Footwear PH.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review : Asus ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE500KL)

4 weeks ago, I received a ZE500 KL Zenfone 2 Laser, a smartphone from  Asus, a leading technology company from Taiwan. Here's my experience with the phone, written from a perspective of an ordinary user who doesn't really give a fuss on all the technical details. :P
Unboxing the sleek Asus ZenFone 2 Laser
When looking for a new phone, I'm mainly after its durability, sound quality (I'm an active Spotify user), design, camera features and of course, its price. I don't even call or text much and unless I got really bored and could not find anything else to do, I won't even pay attention to the apps installed in my phone. :P I am heavily reliant on my tech savvy friends (ehem, Ian!) to help me out. 

ZenFone 2 Laser looks sophisticated. Its screen features a 5.0-inch HD  (720px1280p) display and Corning Gorilla Glass 4, a brand of glass known for its durability.  I appreciate how vibrant the colors appear on screen. Its slim size is a plus. It's 3.5 mm thin on its edges, yet it does not feel like it's going to slide off my hands easily, with its curved back and metallic finish. Having an excellent grip  is important to me because I have jelly fingers and I often drop things, especially when I'm distracted over something. 

Here's an entertaining and powerful video showcasing Zenfone's salient features. The location for some of the scenes is beautiful too :).

Sound Quality
I listen to music a lot on my phone and the earphones that came with it allows me to enjoy music more.  I don't hear background noises and my  colleagues find it a challenge to grab my attention when I have my Asus earphones on. They usually have to tap me, then I have to remove the earphones for me to hear them out and I don't even have the volume on full blast. :p. As for its speakers, the sound quality is just okay. I rarely use it anyway. Worth mentioning is that sound output can be customized with its  Audio Wizard 2.0, an app on the phone where you can adjust the volume, treble and bass according to your preference. 
Here's what the back looks like. The volume controls are on top of the Asus logo.
Camera Features 
Since most of my travels involve a lot of walking around, I pack very lightly without leaving out the important stuff. As part of saving luggage space, I use a smartphone in taking souvenir shots instead of bringing a camera which is the major reason why picture quality is vital to me. 

ZenFone 2 ZE500KL has an 8MP back camera  guided with a laser auto-focus, f/2.0 aperture Toshiba lens  and a 5MP front camera.  Simply put, it focuses on the subject so quickly and delivers photos with excellent detail. I love that it saves me time from having to take multiple shots. If you're into food porn and taking pictures of flowers and insects, you will be able to appreciate its camera. 

It also comes with a Photo Collage app and a MiniMovie maker for creating videos. 

Here are some of the unedited shots :
This one's my favorite. Like something out of an Amorsolo painting, this bucolic scenery of farmers working in the field is always a refreshing sight. This was taken while traveling inside a van along SCTEX. :)  

I love how it takes good photos under low light environments :
Photo below is from The Plaza Hotel in Balanga, Bataan. 

Dancing fountain and light show at Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga
Close-up shot

Food Porn, because food is love! 

Built-in Apps 
It's got several installed apps which initially, I found a little too many. I've uninstalled some and kept the ones that I find useful such as :
-  AsusWeather  which provides  UV Level, sunrise and sunset time, an hourly and extended weather forecast in collaboration with weather forecast provider, Accuweather.  - Flashlight
- Amazon Kindle for reading ebooks
- TripAdvisor 

Bonus : For those who need storage space for their files that can be accessed at any time, the ZenFone  2 Laser comes with  a100GB of FREE Google Drive Storage free for 2 years which you need to redeem in the Google Drive app by April 1, 2018. "After two years of activation, your files restored on storage will not be removed. Only, you can not put new files on your 100 GB storage."  Other Asus devices comes with this useful freebie are 

ZenFone 2, ZenFone Selfie or ZenPad. 
More info here.

If I'm going to nitpick, the only thing that irks me about it is that the back case is so challenging to open.  I feel pain on my fingers when I tried to put a sim in it. On the other hand, it's not much of a big deal because you won't even have to open it frequently. I also find that an advantage in case I drop the phone - oops, I've actually dropped it thrice already on hard surfaces (I was in a hazy state on all three occassions :P) and the phone has not shown any noticeable damages. 

Model :  ZE500KL Zenfone 2 Laser (Dual SIM)
Android Version : 5.0.2
Memory : 2GB
Processor : Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (quad-core) 1.2 GHX
Price : Retails at PHP 7,295 

For more details on its technical specifications, go to this link ZE500KL | Asus website
If you're looking for a smartphone with a  bigger screen and  a camera with higher mega pixels, consider  Asus Zenfone 2 Laser ZE550KL

With its affordable price and  remarkable features, Asus Zenfone 2 Laser ZE500KL makes an excellent budget smartphone. I'm very happy I got the chance to try this out. :)  

Related Post :
Here's another review of ZenFone 2 Laser ZE500KL from Ferdz Decena

Hiking Log : Sunset at Mt. Apayang

One of the nicest things about having long time, reliable hiker friends  is that you can just drop your original plans and go on a spontaneous trip somewhere else! :P 
Our view as we approached the summit of Mt. Apayang which is just around the bend
To cut a long story short, Tristan, one of my oldest friends got held up at work and by the time he arrived at our meeting place, I already had reservations about our original plan, which is to hike Mt. Sembrano in Rizal as it was already late and there might not be enough time to get back home on the same day. 

After agreeing to change plans, we got his car in Paranaque and headed off to Mt. Batulao, a mountain in Nasugbu, Batangas, which we often hike. We were already on the road towards SLEX, when I remembered Mt. Apayang, a neighbor peak of Mt. Talamitam, also located in Nasugbu. This new hiking destination opened in August 2015 and features a thick forest trail. Prior to its opening, some hikers would combine a hike to Mt. Batulao and Talamitam in a day. I find it nice that there's now an option to do 3 to maximize your travel to Batangas.  :) 

I found a very helpful blog post on the web that had all the information we needed and quickly got in touch with our guide, JP Dimapilis. 

Normally, hikers do a traverse, starting from Apayang, then to Talamitam since these mountains are less than 30 minutes away from each other.  But, as it was past 3:00 PM already, we decided to start from Talamitam's jump-off at KM 83 in Sitio Bayabasan, Brgy. Aga. From here, there is also a  trail  up Apayang. This is also where we met up with JP. I noticed, the registration area has moved to a closer spot, just along Nasugbu-Tagaytay highway where public buses pass by. After registering and paying the fees (20 Pesos each for Mt. Apayang and another 20 Pesos for Mt. Talamitam), we started off our hike at 3:40 PM. 

I haven't visited Mt. Talamitam in years and it was great to see that the bamboo bridge is fixed. It moved up and down as we walked on it, making the cross very exciting. 
The wooden bridge is fixed! 
After this bridge, trail becomes a little steep. There is some forest cover on this side, but past this is an enormous area of grassland that's a nightmare to walk  under the heat of the sun. 

Since it was late in the afternoon, the heat was easier to bear and I actually had a great time especially since we saw several horses and cows along the way. It felt awesome to be hiking in the mountains again after a 3-month hiatus. :) 

Our guide is commendable. He is not only friendly and chatty, he  is very considerate, often checks up on us if we're fine with the pace and also shares information about the mountains.
Our guide, JP Dimapilis, he just came straight from a training at the town proper just to help us out.
You can see Mt. Talamitam  on the right side. :)
It was getting close to sunset so we headed to the summit of Mt. Apayang  first while there was natural light so we can see the view. Facing Mt. Talamitam, we took an denser trail on the left. The  grasses were taller than all 4'11 of me and I ended with a lot of grass cuts but I was enjoying too much from seeing a lot of green everywhere, the pain was negligible. :P 

Nearly two hours after starting our trek, we finally reached the summit of Mt. Apayang, silhouette view of nearby peaks welcomed us. I read that when sky is clearer,  you can also see the peaks of Maragondon mountain range in Cavite. 
Summit of Mt. Apayang
There is an open hut at the summit, a very good spot to sit and enjoy the breeze.  

After resting, we headed over to Mt. Talamitam which is less than 30 minutes away. It was very dark when to got to the summit so instead of stopping, we headed back down right away. By 7;00 PM, we were back at the jump-off. 

Mt. Apayang Hiking Info : 
Contact Info for Guides  
09057849830/09304840925 - John Paul (if you're traversing from Talamitam to Apayang)
09169336608 - Sir Juancho (if you're starting from Mataas na Pulo, Apayang's jump-off)
09065763787 - Sir Isagani Botabora (for tree planting activities)
Guide Fee : 500 Pesos (if doing the traverse), 300-400 (one mountain); Guides are required in Talamitam but you can negotiate. :) 
Registration Fee : 20 Pesos per mountain
*Parking fee is free
Where to wash up after the climb? There is a clean restroom near the registration area where you have to pay a small fee (I forgot how much but it's no more than 20 Pesos)
For bigger groups, just check with the locals. 
Where to eat after a climb? Tagaytay, which you will pass on your way to Talamitam has a lot of options. My favorites are Bag of Beans (there's 3 along Tagaytay-Nasugbu highway), Mahogany Market, Green Ats (where there's a very good view of Taal volcano) and Kenny Rogers at Sky Ranch (they have super friendly staff!). 
 For other information that's not on this blog, please visit this very helpful post from Dencio Travel
Notes : 
- as of last visit (October 2015), camping is not allowed in Mt. Apayang. Please verify with the numbers posted above before making plans.

Related Posts : Mt. Talamitam Traverse to Mt. Apayang | Pinoy Mountaineer

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gears : Osprey Packs Nova

If you're on the haunt for a new backpack or a gift for someone who travels or hikes a lot, consider getting an Osprey, a  reputable brand from the US, known for its bags and travel gears. In 2014, it celebrated its 40th year in the industry, a deserving feat for a business that puts in much thought to its customers, offering high quality products, designed to help its users enjoy their outdoor, travel and biking experience. 
At the entrance of the Mangrove Trail of Balanga Wetland.
Photo taken by Kara Santos of
I have been a happy and satisfied  Osprey  user since last year when Osprey Packs Philippines offered me to try Quantum, a model under the 24/Seven series made for everyday use(Post here). The collaboration couldn't have come at a better time as my old backpack had just been stolen and I was looking for a replacement.  I've used it for work, on backpacking trips and once on a three day hike in Mt. Halcon, one of the longest trails in the Philippines. (Post about our hike here).  Most of my travels involve a lot of walking and hiking so it's important for me to have a backpack that's comfortable to use, spacious and durable (imagine breaking a pack when you're out hiking, gah!). 

Just recently, I was provided with another model. This time, it's  a Nova (photo above).  Similar to Quantum, Nova is also an everyday pack and I've been using almost everyday for almost 4 weeks now. I love that there's so much space inside and a compartment for practically everything : 
- blinker light attachment tab 
- front organization pocket for things you need to access quickly like pens, keys
- a front panel stretch mesh pocket where I usually put fruits or snacks (again for easy access :P)  
- heat embossed stash pocket which keeps items like mobile phones and sunglasses scratch free
- padded tablet sleeve and a TSA approved padded laptop sleeve
- slide stretch mesh pockets, where I put cold water bottles

Its gazillion pockets is both an advantage and disadvantage because it sometimes takes time for me to find something I put in but I consider it as a good practice on being mindful on what you do,not "mind full". :P 

Another cool feature of this bag is that it's thoughtfully women-specific.  It's designed according to a woman's body (more details below), making the pack more comfortable when carrying a heavy load. It's like having someone help you carry your stuff, which is nice especially for users like me who pack their hoouse. :)  Unlike Quantum which  has a wider frame and takes up the entire space of my upper torso making me feel like a turtle, Nova fits my back perfectly. 
At Las Casas de Acuzar. Photo from Osprey Packs Philippines
As an everyday pack, I am very satisfied with it especially since I don't have to struggle to put  everything in. :) I also love its material. It doesn't feel and look like it's going to rip off easily. 
Specs : 
Color : This model comes in three colors, Jam Purple, Moody Blue and Black (mine's Jam Purple)
Weight : 2.05 lb
Dimensions : 19 x 11 x 10 (inches)
Capacity : 33 Liters
Price : Osprey Nova retails at 4,990 Pesos.
Where to buy Osprey Packs?  In the Philippines, it's exclusively distributed by the Primer Group and sold in R.O.X.(List of branches)
Facebook Page Osprey Packs Philippines 

Tips on Choosing an Osprey Pack
- If you are buying from R.O.X., talk to an Osprey Sales Assistant for a recommendation on which packs suits your needs. Alternatively, get the model and check it out on Osprey's website
- Not all Osprey packs have a raincover. If you plan to bring it to hiking, it's advisable to choose a model that comes with a raincover to protect your stuff from rain and thorny bushes (if the model you want doesn't have one, you can purchase a raincover separately)
- For ladies, go for the women-specific packs 
What makes Osprey women’s - specific packs unique?
"Our women’s packs come in torso lengths that best fit women’s bodies. All packs come standard with women’s - specific harness and hipbelt. The women’s harness is narrow at its entry point in the backpanel, and tapers slightly outward below the collarbone to offer more comfort and freedom for the chest area. The women’s hipbelt is canted slightly upward to best cup the hips and is patterned with a narrower profile. Our women’s packs also come in women’s specific colors."

Want a smaller pack? Watch this  interesting overview of an Osprey Momentum commuter pack which is ideal for those who bike. I just found this on You Tube and the cool lady in the video was so convincing, now I want one. :P  Haaay!

With so many brands out there, it is both a blessing and a curse to see so many options when you're in a store. To get the best value for money, research and ask users. If you're looking for an outdoor pack, ask those who hike regularly for tips.  There's also a group on Facebook where you can ask these questions, check out CLIMBER Philippines.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We walked EDSA, an advocacy for a walkable Metro Manila

Welcoming sunrise at Magallanes, Makati
I love walking. Since you're moving at a slower pace, I'm able to look around and discover small cafes, street art, interesting graffiti and plant boxes, things that would normally be a blur when you're inside a vehicle - and to me,that's just as exciting as doing a mountain hike. :)

Imagine my delight when I met other individuals who are willing to spend a Sunday morning to walk along one of the Philippines' major highways!  On October 25, I joined fellow advocates in walking a significant length of EDSA, starting from the giant globe at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay to North EDSA in Quezon City.The goal of the activity, dubbed as #WalkEDSA, was to initiate a discussion on how to make Metro Manila a walkable city. Our group, comprised of 13 individuals from various fields,was led by hiker friend Gideon Lasco of *Global Shapers Community – Manila Hub

Though it was a Sunday, a not so busy day in the city, the activity gave us a glimpse of the challenges fellow pedestrians face. We started walking at 5:00 AM and very early on, I had to take out a towel to protect myself from smoke emitted by the vehicles that passed us. Aside from pollution, we walked on areas that were dirty - trash on sidewalks showing some people's lack of discipline, who treat the road as one big garbage bin. There's also this interesting sidewalk in a section of Makati where only one person can pass which would be challenging for those in a wheelchair;  an overpass that turned into a little market and lastly,  drivers who show no regard for pedestrians, perhaps they're from the same specie of drivers that irks me - those who floor the gas  pedal when they see white lines on a pedestrian crossing. 

The experience was not all negative. Aside from burning 1,500 calories (according to a friend's gadget), it was fun walking areas that had murals (Camp Aguinaldo side), street art along Pasay and portions of EDSA planted with trees and shrubs (Makati and Quezon City,nearing Corinthian Gardens).  It was also fascinating seeing Mary Queen of Peace from the overpass. It's massive! :) Aside from structures, meeting people who make a living in the streets was an awesome experience. 
A very jolly sisig vendor doing the famous "pabebe wave"
(in case you haven't heard about it, it's an #AlDub thing :P Check it on Twitter!)

Philippine National Railways track in Makati
The 21.3 KM route  took us 5 hours, 30 minutes to complete, including our breaks. Gaaah, it was a lot of walking on concrete and as tiring as it was, the amount of time we spent walking gave us plenty of insights about pedestrian welfare.  
street art along EDSA-Pasay side.
After freshening up, we reconvened at Capitol Commons in Pasig for a post event discussion. Each one was given the chance to speak about what they've observed and their ideas on how we can move forward. Gideon provided a well-written summary on Pinoy Mountaineer. Another friend, Ferdz Decena, also shared about his experience on his blog,
The group at SM North EDSA (after we wiped our faces :P, photo from Ferdz Decena)
We've got a long and exciting journey to help make things better for us pedestrians, if you are interested to take part, please "Like" the Walk Manila Facebook Page to get updates on future activities. :) 

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young leaders based in cities all over the world, and #WalkEDSA is the Manila Hubʼs activity for the Communityʼs “Shape
Sustainability” - an initiative that challenges every hub to think of what they can do tomake their cities more sustainable. Walking, with its documented benefits to individual health, urban mobility, social solidarity, and the environment, is certaintly a (literal) steptowards this direction. 

Related Articles on #WalkEDSA:  
CNN - Making Metro Manila "pedestrian friendly"
TopGear Philippines - Pedestrian-safety advocates walks 20KM length of EDSA
Rappler - #WalkEDSA: 9 things I learned from walking the length of EDSA
Philippine Daily Inquirer - To Make Metro Manila Walkable 
Manila Coconuts - This guy walked EDSA on a Sunday. These are 5 of the things they learned.

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