Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Monday, November 28, 2011

Destination Food Find - Patio Vera

As someone who was born and raised in various cities where noise can be overbearing , developed communities are not my top choice for a quick, quiet escape.  Once in a while though, I come across places that digress from the negative characteristics of urban living. 

Patio Vera, a new restaurant located within a community of modern and old houses in Marikina serves generous portions of Spanish and Filipino cuisines amidst an outdoor, classy yet comfortable set-up. It induces a relaxing vibe that entices friends, lovers, families and colleagues to openly converse. Despite being located along a busy street frequented by cars and jeepneys, the  noise does not make it past the gate and diners are able to enjoy a quiet, filling meal.

Patio Vera is furnished with art works, antique decors and footwear creations.  It formally opened on the 1st of October 2011 and is owned by a member of the Caballes family. Vera is the name of their grandmother who was a shoemaker. Today, their shoemaking business is continued by a fresher generation of the family.

Last Friday, me and several blogger friends (Josiah of LakasNgTrip, Dennis of Running Pinoy and Laiza of Batanggala)  accepted an invite from Patio Vera to sample several of their dishes.  (My kind of assignment!!!)

*All photos that followed are from Josiah Sicad of LakasNgTrip and Pinakbet.Net

Seafood Pasta (Good for 2)
Dinamita, a bestseller! It's not spicy, I swear!
After munching on some appetizers and while waiting for the main course, we were toured around the house. Much as I wanted to maintain my composure, it was difficult to restrain myself from oohing as I circled around the house.  It was like being in a museum where you're allowed to sit around and touch the display. It was amusing how they made the various design concepts fit together. It was a mixture of modern, homey, chic and classic elements. 

We capped off the night by talking just about any topic in our heads. There’s just something about this place that imbibes sharing about yourself. Haha!

Our group wishes to thank the management of Patio Vera for warmly accommodating us and the dinner treat. Oh it came at perfect timing because my birthday was the following day! :)  Thank you! (Special mention to Beng P.! Thanks!)

Facebook Page : Patio Vera
Google  Location Map
How to Get Here

Location:  70 General F. Santos St., Calumpang, Marikina
Business Hours : 
Tue-Thu, 17:00-23:00
Fri-Sat, 17:00-01:00
Sun, 11:00-23:00
Cuisine : Filipino, Spanish
Price Range : 300 Pesos Above

Email : patiovera@yahoo.com
Phone: +63(02)239-06-15
Note : They accept walk-ins but if going on a Friday or the weekend, a reservation is strongly advised. 
More food photos here 

Location Map

Friday, November 25, 2011

Destination Runs in the Philippines

Fresh air, beautiful scenery and not your average road run are among the attractive points of an out of town organized run. These type of events are sprouting around the Philippines and most people are taking advantage of the opportunity to  travel and get fit at the same time.

Overseas, destination running is not a new idea. Ever heard of the Sahara Desert Marathon or the Vibram Hong Kong 100? I'm glad that various brands operating in the Philippines are beginning to notice its potential to draw crowds  and are jumping at the opportunity to expose runners  to  various routes  around the country. With proper management, it should  to be  a good thing because it helps drive business to the community.

There have been previous races that were raved by its participants such as the CDO-Dahilayan Run, a 55 KM Ultra marathon  which  took runners around CDO  and Dahilayan in Manolo Fortrich, Bukidnon. There’s also the local TNF 100 Series which is dear to my heart as several friends are part of the organizing committee. This year was held in CamSur and the route passed through Mt. Isarog.  Another wonderful event is the Kitanglad Rugged Mountain Race, spearheaded by another friend Ben Maputi, a trail run held at the beautiful but rough terrain of Mt. Kitanglad (watch out for part 2 on Feb. 2012!).  Another anticipated annual event and among my favorites is the  Corregidor International Half Marathon organized by Edward Kho. It’s usually held in December when weather is much cooler. For 2011, it’s going to be held on December 10.

Of course, I shall reserve an entire paragraph to praise  my loving hydration partner – Nathan Sports Philippines which had just concluded their first race. (Congrats!!!) The Nathan Ridge Run was held  within the  confines of Tagaytay Highlands where weather is cooler and the views of Taal Lake - breathtaking! Although I am utterly grateful to them for providing support during the race, I need to stress that I will  not be raving about them if I didn’t  truly enjoy it.  Part of the race kit is a free Nathan water bottle that can be used to refill at the hydration stations because no paper/plastic cups  were provided. There weren’t any liters in sight except for some bits and pieces of energy gels left on the side walk. There was also a shuttle from Manila to the venue which had to be paid by the participants at a reasonable price and oh, free lunch!!! It wasn't that much but it was good. Oh, the best thing of all - the views of Taal Lake! The route was grueling but fun, as it was mostly "uphell",  especially at the 21KM division where I joined. I finished in 3 hours which is a bit slow but I'm just happy because I was able to run as much as I could. It was my best effort! Haha! It was also nice to spend some time with old friends  and meet new people. (Hi friends!)

So if you're looking into a different type of thrill you may want to consider joining destination runs. You will most likely get a great deal because some organizers usually get  discounts from hotels or transportation and embed it to the registration fee. A highly recommended source is Takbo.Ph which has a calendar of running events. The site is pretty easy to navigate. If you want check out other sports apart from running,  check out Pinoy Fitness (Hello Jeff!!!) which features various events around the Philippines. 

Happy running everyone!
With friends :) - Thank you to Pinoy.Fitness.com for this photo! :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Body Surfing - Cagayan Valley

Body Surfing eh? You've probably done it before without realizing it. It's the art of riding  waves without the use of a buoyancy device. It's a form of making love with the water. Fun right?!

While it can be scary for the first time, because you're going to need tall waves (and most of them are pretty strong), the experience is exhilarating. It requires proper timing so you have to practice. You also need to control your nerves and remain calm even if you get squashed under the water. Most importantly, you need to know how to swim or at least float.

During my pre-teens, me and several cousins spent some time at Claveria Beach in Cagayan Valley. It's at the tip of the municipality of Claveria, just across the Babuyan Channel.

Early morning, we'd walk to the ocean to play with the waves - twice as tall as we are, and wait until it's a few feet in front of us. On queue, we'd jump as high as we can and glide with the waves. If we don't get it right, we get sucked under, devoid of air for a few seconds but by maintaining composure, we would eventually make our way up and survive. Other times, when we fail to meet with the waves at the correct angle, we get hurled back to the shore, towards small rocks. Pain is temporary but the fun was twice as much, so we'd go home slightly scathed and bruised but with huge smiles on our sunburned faces.

I learned from reading several blogs that the town of Claveria is slowly developing as a tourist hub, though not as bustling as Pagudpud, which makes it an ideal, adventurous, quiet escape.

Some photos below - (note that these are from a previous trip in La Paz, Ilocos Norte and not from Cagayan). Thanks to Monette for these photos! :) 

And here's a cool  Body Surfing video I found on You Tube: 

Learn about Body Surfing here.

For accommodations and what else to see around Claveria, please visit IronWulf.

Disclaimer : While body surfing is ultra fun, please always take necessary precautions and do it with a buddy who can  swim and remain composed during emergencies. Swimming is useless under a panic attack. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Solo Hiking Tips

(post updated September 2016)
In relation to an earlier post on recommended solo hiking destinations around Luzon, I am sharing some tips, some of which are from friends who are equally passionate about mountains. 

While a standard safety tip in hiking is to never go alone but sometimes, a companion is unavailable and you find yourself craving for a mountain adventure. Here are my tips for those doing a solo hike :

1. Choose a short, well-established trail that can be completed within 4 hours, has mobile signal, close to the jump-off and popular to visitors. Research and ask around before going. It is also recommended to hire a local guide - one that you can secure from the barangay or recommended by someone you trust. Register at the Barangay or Tourism Office as soon as you arrive so you can get a safety advisory or travel tips. (For hiking itineraries, visit www.pinoymountaineer.com)

2. Always inform someone where you’re going or leave them a copy of your itinerary. You could also ask that person to start looking for you if you fail to contact them again after a certain number of hours. As much as possible, let someone know where you are. This would help the rescuers determine a starting point for their search. 

Related Post : Safety Tips for Solo Women Travelers 

3. Bring a first aid kit in case you get injured or encounter someone who needs help. What to put in your first aid kit? Refer to this checklist from REI.

4. Don't be shy to approach the tourism office or barangay to ask for information or request assistance.

5. For females, another helpful tip that has worked for me is making use of this “gift”called feminine instinct. You often hear people talk about it but it’s tricky to explain what it actually is. Sometimes, it’s this illogical feeling of wanting to deviate from what you’re about to do. Other times, it’s this voice in your head telling you exactly what to do. I use this a lot when deciding if I’m staying at a place and in choosing the people I hang out with (ex. Sharing a ride with strangers or staying at their place).

Must Bring:
- First Aid Kit

- Adequate food and water. Always bring emergency food/water that you promise not to consume until you get back to civilization. I've seen several situations where hikers depleted all their stocks to minimize their load only to be stranded for a couple of hours or days with not enough food. They all survived, though slightly traumatized.

- Change of clothes and slippers. You don't want to wear that wet boots all the way home.

- Mobile Phone (one that's adequately charged of course!)

- Always waterproof your belongings (put it in a dry bag or plastic).

It must be stressed however that it’s not recommended to do a solo trek when you are doing it for the first time. Better familiarize yourself with the basics of hiking before embarking on your own.  Besides, it's always nice to have someone to share your reactions with.:)

Happy hiking!

Thanks to Jules Picato of Trail Running Mistress and Jay-Z Jorge for sharing their tips.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Shoesharing Project

Hola amigos! (practicing my Spanish for a dream trip some time in the future :P)

Me and several blogger friends (JourneyingJames, RunProud.net and Batanggala) collaborated and launched, ShoeSharing Project. It's a shoe drive where we aim to collect footwear (old or new) for the young athletes of Bayawan City in Negros Oriental (Why them? Read about it here.) We are also accepting cash donations. 

You can contact me or anyone of us if you want to help (it will be very much welcomed with open arms!). Our contact details are on the poster below. We also need store owners who can accept shoe donations. We're hoping we can ship everything to Negros by December 1. If you want to partner with us, just send an email to beadedtraveler@gmail.com. 

More details about the project were posted in James' running site - Running.JourneyingJames

Thank you for taking time to read this. Have a great weekend! Feel free to spread the word! :)

Sayonara Green Passport - Philippine Passport Renewal

I felt slightly sad as the DFA personnel plunged two holes into my green passport as I was having it renewed. Taking its place is the more advanced - maroon machine readable passport (so not my color, haha!).

As I fumbled on the immigration stamps, I found myself reminiscing about some of the great adventures I experienced overseas - Putrajaya, Kinabalu Mountain Race, hiking in Borneo, ohhh baby! Those were amazing! Well, I won't be rambling "emo" thoughts about it. I just wanted to share with you that passport renewal was a breeze! Just make sure you have all the requirements and that all information in the form are correct. Better arrive early and be in proper attire (wear a collared shirt and do not wear shorts or slippers!) I felt really sorry for those people who were refused entry because they were wearing improper footwear. One lady in a mini red skirt was also not allowed. Maong pants are okay though. 

Passport.com.ph  is the official site where you can get all the necessary information you need to get a passport or have it renewed, book an  appointment and get a print out of the application form. You can also opt to call  (02) 737-1000 to secure a schedule as what my mom did. She mentioned the operator was  helpful and knowing my mom, I can also vouch that the operator was  patient. :P  

I picked an early schedule which was at 8:00 AM. When I arrived at 7:30 AM, there were already hundreds of people inside and I felt slightly edgy. I don't like falling in line at all! Fortunately, queue was very quick and I finished at 8:49 am. Easy breezy. I was actually under the influence of Stress Tabs and  practically smiled at every person I encountered, even the girl at the processing session who was slightly  "masungit". I did not leave her desk until she loosened up a bit and almost smiled. Haha! 

My friend, Pinay Travel Junkie gave a much detailed account of her experience when she had her passport renewed last year. Visit her site for more details. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gift Ideas for the Outdoor Hotties

Thinking of what to give to that adventurous special someone?

Strain your brains no more  and save it on other things! Here's a  list of gift ideas or better yet, add these to your wish list. :P These items are all useful, handy,  funky and easy to find.

1. Head Accessory : Headware
This is a great gift for people who love bandanas and despise wearing caps. 
Jules, The Trail Running Mistess (MakTrav Day Hike)

What to Buy : Headware is a Philippine brand that features creative and functional head accessories. It can be worn as protection from the heat, dust, pollution, sandy situations (like that 4wd to Mt. Pinatubo) or a fashion piece! What's great is that it comes in designs that caters to adventurers with varied preferences. It comes in  light, neon and dark colors. The most awesome thing? It's budget friendly!

How Much? 195 Pesos and above, depending on the design

Where to Buy It:  R.O.X.(Bonifacio High Street, Cebu, Pampanga), Outlet Store  (Market Market) , Other Sports shops

2. Headlamp 
As the name implies, it's basically a lamp worn around the head .  :P It enables you to hike/bike, whatever, without the need to use your hands to hold it up. It's helpful in situations like pitching a tent in the dark, cooking at the campsite, etc.  
Cueva Santa Cave, Quezon (Petzl, Black Diamond and Energizer represented!)
What to Buy Energizer, Petzl, Black Diamond are good brands. I've seen these used by friends and they have all raved about it. Mine is Petzl Tikkina which is durable, reliable and cheaper than the other Petzl models though not as bright, so I would suggest going for Tikka Plus.

How Much? 800-3,000 Pesos depending on the brand. Energizer's the cheapest among the three. 

Where to Buy It? Outdoor shops like Conquer (Robinson's Pioneer), R.O.X. (Bonifacio High Street, Cebu, Pampanga),  Energizer headlamps can be purchased at the grocery. 

3. Water-proof/Shock-proof Cameras  
Though a bit on the expensive side, this is a gift that will surely be welcomed with open arms. Under weather disturbances or wet situations where everybody else is hiding their SLR's inside their bags, the jovial recipient of your gift will be out there, shooting! 
Photo courtesy of  Google image search
What to Buy? Here's a review from TrustedReviews.Com. But don't just rely on one source, check out several sites from the web and ask users. :) I currently using an old model from Olympus -  790 SW. It's reliable and hasn't given up on me yet given that I normally just toss things inside my bag. The picture quality isn't so great though. I've also used a Canon D10 for a previous job and it was amazing. The size is quirky though. It's like a soap and I find it rather bulky. The resolution and photos are of good quality and given an option, I'd choose that over my Olympus. (Sorry my dear O!) 

How Much? 6,000 Pesos Above depending on the brand

Where to Buy It? Camera shops. Haha! Sorry, I couldn't be more specific. I don't know much about cameras  but I'm pretty sure it's so easy to ask around. 

4. Malong
When you're out there camping, you don't bother with details on where the toilets are or where to dress up. You do it anywhere  and this is where a Malong comes handy. You can dress in front of your friends without putting out a good show. :P Just go inside a malong and do your thing - change into a bathing suit, a long gown, whatever. It can serve as a blanket during long bus rides or while sleeping inside your tent.   

Helping Glee change clothes in front of everyone, Mt. Manalmon, Bulacan
How Much? 200 pesos 

Where to Buy It? Aldevinco in Davao is a haven for malongs and various souvenirs. I'm not familiar with a source in Manila but I guess you can try the bazaars.  

5. Packing Solutions
Your honey doesn't like packing? I don't either! Packing cubes enables you to stuff in clothes  so that it'll consume lesser space in your bag. You can also group your clothes together so that you don't have to guess where your favorite chartreuse underwear went. :P Better if you can get a waterproof packing cube but I haven't seen any of those. 

What to Buy :  Eagle Creek, You can also check out locally made packing cubes like  Paccube (haven't tried them yet though)

How Much? : 350 Pesos and above (prices varies according to the size and model).

Where to Buy It? R.O.X. (Bonifacio High Street, Ayala Center Cebu, Marquee Mall, Pampanga), The Travel Club, Paccube Website

6. Dry Bags/Waterproof Pouches
Keep your clothes and gear dry by stuffing it inside a waterproof bag. These babies are handy, light and you can just fold or toss inside your bag after using it. 

my friend Ivan before we started our Mt. Maculot traverse, no need to worry about his phones!
What to Buy : Sealine, Sea to Summit, Sandugo

How Much? : 200 Pesos and above for waterproof pouches while dry bags start at  800 Pesos up (depends on how big, the brand, etc.)

Where to Buy It? Sandugo Outdoor shops,  R.O.X. (Bonifacio High Street, Ayala Center Cebu, Marquee Mall, Pampanga),   Trek & Conquer , various local outdoor shops

7. Travel Books/Magazines
Knowledge is power! Travel books/magazines are great source of ideas on future destinations. If they're not much of a reader, then go for those books with amazing pictures.

What to Buy? A Year of Adventures from Lonely Planet and practically everything from their collection, books from Jon Krakauer, Local Travel Magazines,Twisted Travels by Jessica Zafra is also a fun read (don't expect colorful photos though), 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

How Much? A Year of Adventures from LP is around 999 Pesos, while Jon Krakauer books can be bought at Booksale at 150 Pesos, you just have to sort patiently through their shelves. :P

Where to Buy It? Powerbooks, Fully Booked, A Different Bookstore,  Booksale, National Bookstore

8. Statement Shirts
Everybody needs something to wear, well, at least until they get to their destination, so why not give a shirt that stands out? (Dri fit preferred so that it dries easily). 
Our shirts from our friend's fund raising activity for Blue Baby Naomi. Visit this link for details on
how to avail.

What to Buy? Pinoy mountaineer,Team Manila, Bazaars

How Much? 350 above

Where to Get It? Pinoy Mountaineer shirts, Team Manila, Conquer

9. Water Bottles/Hydration Bag
Do your part in saving the environment by giving hydration bottles which can be replenished after each trip. No need to scout for the nearest grocery to buy water!

What to Buy? Nalgene, Camelbak, Source, Nathan

How Much? 750 Pesos above

Where to Get It? Nathan FB Page, Local outdoor shops like Conquer in Robinson's Pioneer

10. Utility Knife
One of the outdoor fanatics' must-haves.  This is for opening canned goods, beer, clear a trail and more! 

What to Buy?  Victorinox is a good brand, the balisong (knife) from Batangas are also highly recommended (sariling atin!)

How Much? 700 Pesos above

Where to Get It? You can purchase Victorinox Swiss Knives in National Bookstore (for real!),  R.O.X. (Bonifacio High Street, Ayala Center Cebu, Marquee Mall, Pampanga),  Ebay PH , Amazon

Whatever you give, I'm sure it will be appreciated, but wouldn't it be better if it's something they can use for their next adventure? Now go to the mall or to the online shops and grab something! :)

This is not a sponsored post. Just trying to help! :P

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Top 5 Mindanao Adventures

Mindanao is the second largest of the 3 major islands in the Philippines. Its land area spans 37,657 square miles and although its reputation is marred by news of conflicts occurring in several provinces, a traveler should not take this against the entire island. It is politically divided into 26 provinces, and of this number, you can only hear about 5 of them constantly in the news. This leaves the other places absorbing gossip that Mindanao is unsafe for visitors.   Not fair!

Let me share with you my favorite adventures, personally tested during my previous travels to Mindanao. Hey, I’m still very much alive and ready to hit  my 30th birthday as of this writing! :)  (in fact, I am flying to Zamboanga two weeks from now...I am excited! Great weather please!)

1. Davao Del Sur - Water Tubing in Sibulan River
As I walked from the main highway towards the tubing site, I was met with curious stares from bystanders, to which I returned a warm smile. I wasn’t sure where to go so I decided to ask. I was led to a local’s place where I was told to leave my backpack. I was introduced to my young guide. After packing my cellphone and money in a waterproof pouch, we started with a short hike down the river which took less than 30 minutes.

The waters were raging but the view was gorgeous – mountains on one side, stone walls on the other.

The guide gave some instructions before we boarded our tubes, which was attached to each other. I sat in front. We started off smoothly and then it got intense. We traversed the river at a quick speed and I can see boulders a few inches from my face. We were like leaves vigorously towed by the strong currents. It was awesome!!! I wish I had a waterproof camera at the time so I can relieve the experience through videos. Unfortunately, the intensity of the experience was only stored in my head. Hope I can do this again!

2. North Cotabato - Toploading in Kidapawan
Barangay Illomavis in Kidapawan is one of the popular and safest jump-offs in climbing Mt. Apo. It features Lake Agco and a resort with man-made pools.

The terminal is at Mega Market and will take two hours of negotiating through rough road and concrete to get to the resort. I sat on top of the roof, beside onions, chickens and other people.  Though my butt was in pain the entire time,I was so excited because I would be able to see Mt. Apo, even from a distance. The ride passed through the highway and into a community along the mountains. The Philippines’ highest mountain regally loomed ahead of us as the vehicle zipped down the road and I can only stare with my mouth half open, amused like a kid.

3. Camiguin - Motorbike Tour
I met a persuasive local in a hot pink jacket as I emerged from a convenience store. I just arrived at the Benoni Port and had no idea where to go. She helped me find a cheap place to stay and contacted a friend with a motorbike. The 3 of us toured Camiguin, even hiked the Old Volcano which I enjoyed. We also went to the sunken cemetery which gave an eerie vibe and finally, to the foot of Mt. Hibok-Hibok as the moon started to rise. Riding motorbikes, though kinda freaky, is such an amazing way to see unobstructed views of your surroundings and quite easy on the pocket too! :P

The last 2 on my list are from Bukidnon, my beloved, a playground for adventure seekers! Here there are mountains, waterfalls, caves, canyons, pretty horses, cheap restaurants, great coffee, budget accommodations and friendly people, basically everything I want!

4. Spelunking at Sumalsag Cave – “When you land from the plane, be in your caving attire”. That was one of the instructions I received from our Bukidnon contact, Doc Chi. At that time, I was with a different company and part of my job was to test outdoor activities (my fave part!).

I took the first flight from Manila which was at 4:15 AM and was picked up by Doc. Chi and Ben, a local adventurer and race organizer, at the Lumbia Airport in CDO. You can just imagine how energetic I felt at that time. I was so not in the zone to get wet. However, my mood changed as soon as we descended to the entrance of the cave. It was dark but the chambers were huge so there was plenty of room to move around. We spent about four hours inside the cave where we saw gours, stalactites that glistened in the dark and enormous pools where you can dive! My favorite part was when we had to swim underneath a natural pool to exit the cave. That was cool.

The caving experience ended with a short hike down the mountain to where our vehicle was parked. From  afar, massive  valleys in rich shades of green were our views.

5. Waterfalls Adventure – CEDAR
Here's a video of me and a friend under one of the falls. The boulders were slippery and the water dropped against our bodies with strong force that I was both afraid and thrilled at the same time.  Amazing! 

The Center for Ecological Development and Recreation (CEDAR) is  a reforestation project located in Brgy.  Impalutao, Bukidnon and covers a land area of approximately 1,703 hectares.

One can enjoy a variety of adventures such as taking a forest trail that will lead to 5 waterfalls, ride horses, camp overnight, swim in man-made pools amidst trees or climb Mt. Kibuwa which stands at a height of 1,200+ MASL. It is also an area of interest for those people who want to research about the different species of plants, trees and insects within its forests. 

Video shot by Doc. Chi Abellanosa who was also our guide.  Thanks Doc!

As with any activity,  safety must always be a priority. However, we shouldn't limit ourselves within our comfort  zones. One should research  and make an informed  decision on where they want to go,  not from hearsay but through reliable sources of information (people who live and know the area). 

This was prepared as an entry to November 2011 PTB Blog Carnival with the theme, “Mindanao Bliss”. This is a collaborative effort to promote Mindanao as a fun and safe destination. Thanks to our host, Olan of The Travel Teller

Statistical Resources :
1. National Statistics Coordination Website - Philippines
2. Wikipedia - Mindanao
3. Bukidnon Government Website

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Five Mountains in Luzon For Solo Hikers

If you have taken a Basic Mountaineering Course, one of the things you will be taught is to  climb with a partner for safety reasons. But sometimes, a companion is unavailable and you find yourself craving for that liberating rush to engage in a solitary mountain adventure.

As Luzon (and the rest of the Philippines) is abundant with mountains that are ideal for solitary hikers, it’s difficult to conjure an excuse why you should pass up the chance to experience the summit on your own. 

Here’s a list of several tried and tested hiking destinations. Each can be climbed in a day and with the exception of Mt. Tarak, will not take you more than 3 hours to reach the summit as long as you're in good condition. 

These were selected for the quality of trails, safe atmosphere, convenience of travel from Manila and with proper research, the services of a guide (although advisable) are unnecessary. (Just a friendly reminder to my fellow hikers to adhere to the LNT Principle by heart when you visit these mountains and do not leave any garbage behind. Keep in mind that these list  was shared to extend the appreciation for nature, not to draw big disruptive crowds. :) ).

1. Mt. Timbac (Atok, Benguet)
– At 2,717+ MASL, it is believed to be 3rd highest point in Luzon, after Tabayoc and Pulag. The trails are mostly on concrete while some parts are rocky. You won’t really need hiking shoes here. It starts at a hilly portion of the road where you can find yourself catching your breath on the first 30 minutes as you're already at a high altitude where air is thinner. Popular jump-off is at KM. 55 of Halsema Highway which can be reached by riding one of the buses to Bontoc or Sagada from the terminal in Baguio near the slaughter house.

2. Mt. Maculot (Cuenca, Batangas) – is a favored destination for mountaineers who are training for more challenging mountains. The trails though established are quite steep on most parts. The views of Taal Lake at Rockies, a high point in the mountain often mistaken as the summit, are breathtaking. As you emerge from the last few meters of a tiring assault,  the path to the summit is to the right, where views are obscured with thick foliage  while Rockies is to the left. If you want to spice up your climb, though it's a bit more strenuous,  ascend from the Grotto to the summit and make Rockies your final stop. 

3. Mt. Ampacao (Sagada, Mountain Province)
The regular trail starts from the Ambasing Elementary school. There you can easily ask for directions as you make your way up. The terrain is rocky and wide. As you approach the summit, you will feel magnetized by the view of mountains where clouds converge. Watch out for the boulder view decks at the side of the trail, where you can meditate and take great shots. You can also do a traverse to Lake Danum, a popular spot to watch the sunset (but better avail the services of a guide from the tourism office as there are several trails leading down).

4. Gulugod Baboy  (Mabini, Batangas) – highly recommended for people who enjoy both the mountains and the water. The summit features views of the ocean and other mountains such as Mt. Daguldol, Maculot & Batulao. 

After the climb, you can check in one of the resorts across the jump-off. Philpan Resort, is the mountaineers' favorite. Here you can pay for entrance and use their facilities to wash or better yet, swim in the ocean! Overnight accommodation is also available and you can try to negotiate for the rates when it's off the summer season. The resorts in Barangay Anilao also features a lot of diving & snorkeling spots and is considered as a haven for underwater sports enthusiasts. 

Photo courtesy of my friend - Diana
For those who are looking for a bit of a challenge, we have :

5. Mt. Tarak (Mariveles, Bataan) – Located inside the mountain is its ridge where most hikers choose to end their ascent because this is where the great views are. On a clear day, you can see the rest of Bataan, Corregidor and Manila Bay. 

From the Five Star terminal in Cubao,  board a bus to  Mariveles and ask the conductor to let you off at Barangay Alas-Asin. From where you will alight, take the road to your right and upon reaching the end of the road, turn left. In less than an hour, the trail will lead you to a couple’s hut where you have to register (no fixed fee but donations are welcome).

The trail is easy to follow. However, you will encounter a landslide where you need to cling to a rope attached to boulders to get to the other side. After that, you can easily make your way up Papaya River which is a clear and cold water source making it an ideal camping spot. The next portion of the trail gets trickier. You need to watch out for trail signs (3 small rocks on top of each other) leading upward. The last 15 minutes to the ridge has overgrown weeds, as high as a person and challenging to negotiate but with patience and presence of mind, you will eventually find your way to the clearing.

Having the freedom to change your plan as often as you can, dictate your pace, trek as slowly as you want or even run are some of the perks of solo hiking. You are also more inclined to socialize and talk to others you  normally ignore when you’re with company.

Of course, one must not ignore its risky aspects such as having no one to instantly available to assist you if you get into trouble so extreme precaution must be undertaken. Please check out tips here.

Whether with a companion or on your own, with a positive mindset, believe that it’s going to be an awesome adventure! Akyat na sir/ma’am! :)

*Sir/Ma’am is mountaineer speak when referring to people they encounter along the way.

Although these mountains are generally safe as hiking destinations, one must always take the precautions when traveling. Best advice I can give is to talk to the locals before proceeding, be mindful of your surroundings, always tell someone of your whereabouts and go with your gut feeling. Once you sense danger, retreat! Adventure will be here for eternity but our lives can be taken in a heartbeat.


I’d like to thank my friend Ramon Jorge for contributing to this list. JZ was the recipient of 3 awards at the 2011 Nomads Peak Mountain Climbing Race which included : First to Summit 30,000 Ft. ASL Award (2nd wave),35 Mountains/ Summits/Peaks in 7 Days Award at Ranked 2nd Highest Climber (2nd Place) as to elevation (2nd Wave Climbers). Congrats bro!

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