Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thank You! Summing up January’s Happy Adventures

January will come to a close in a few days and I shall bid goodbye to an adventure-filled month within the confines of our home, taking it easy while sipping cups of coffee. I part with this moth with gratitude for all the wonderful experiences – both done solo and with an energetic bunch of old and new friends.

Here’s a rundown of how the first month of the year went.

1. January 8 - Solo Adventure at Tatlong Krus, Laguna – I first saw Kape Kesada, an art gallery café in Paete by browsing through a friend’s album on Facebook. Coffee and paintings happen to be two of my favorite things (ah scratch that, I like paintings, I LOOVEE coffee!) and so I knew I’d be going here soon. While doing some research, I also discovered a hiking trail where imposing views of Laguna bay can be seen. It seemed safe and easy, quite doable on my own.

It rained pretty much the entire time I was in Paete and even if I was drenched, cold and alone, I had a great time. The views at the peak which features Laguna de Bay and its surrounding town were a delight after a 40-minute hike amidst a forested uphill trail.

Kape Kesada which was the main reason for my trip showcased beautiful paintings depicting rural life. Here, I stayed for hours enjoying the artworks and reading books over cups of Kapeng Barako.

2. January 12 - Joseph Apsay's first exhibit – a friend has been doodling on his notepad since college days and he rarely shows his works to anyone. 10 years after college, he finally had the courage to present his paintings on a private exhibit during a birthday dinner. With his talent, I am sure it will just be a matter of months before he shares his work to the rest of the public. Go Joseph!

Photo Courtesy of Gerald Santayana

3. January 14 - Mt. Maculot Day Hike One of my favorite mountains was the destination for my cousin’s first mountain experience, which she survived with an ultra positive attitude while battling the heart-racing steep trails. A bonus was a side trip to Taal Lake through a forested path inside a barangay, separated from the main road by 1,009 stone steps.

We caped off the long day with more chatting over cups of coffee at Café Lipa. You bet we were still pretty much hyped up on our bus ride home. Me and my cousin constantly had to remind each other to pipe down a bit while laughing and talking the entire time because it was past 9pm and most of the passengers wanted to sleep.

4. January 21-22 - 2 Days, 6 Peaks – This trip practically made my year. It’s an item off my bucket list! Some people asked why I'd want to engage into such exhausting ordeal but I don't have a logical reason. All I know is that I love mountains and being there makes me happier.

Our small group traversed to both paved and unchartered paths around the mountains of Batangas and Cavite. For two days, all we did was hike and all logistics were taken care of by our 2-person crew who treated us like their own children. We had to sleep on cold wooden benches with no walls on our first night, eat wherever it’s convenient – be it on a highway cement or while in the mountain on top of the soil but these were small sacrifices compared to this physically grueling but amazing experience.

P.S. I'd like so say thank you to the organizer of this trip, Ceejay Custodio, President and co-founder of Green Mountain Tribe. It's a pleasure to hike with people who are truly passionate about mountains. See, when you love something, you also have the responsibility to protect it and that's what some people these days forget. It's not about conquering a mountain, it's about preserving it for others to enjoy its beauty. That means not leaving any trash behind or putting up unnecessary signages. Rule of thumb - leave a mountain as though you have not passed through but always acknowledge the locals and the people you encounter along the way. If you can also pick up trash that's been left behind, even if it's just a wrapper, do it. 

So what’s next for February? I will be slowing down a bit to focus on other things I dream of doing, but hiking will still be definitely part of the agenda. :) 

Thank you for taking time to read this and I wish you bigger adventures! :) 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mountaineering Movie - Touching the Void

Last weekend, with the help of a friend,  I was able to cross an item off my dream adventures list  - hike 3 peaks in a day! We not only did it once, we did it two days in a row! Let me stress though that I did not do it to earn bragging rights. I just love hiking and I love doing it that way. :)  It's been 3 days since our return to Manila and I could still feel the elation from that challenging but fun tryst around the mountains of Batangas and Cavite. We were blessed with cooperative weather and great company.  I shall post about that soon, both my mind and body are still in the midst of recuperating. :P 

For the meantime, let me entertain you with an inspiring documentary movie from 2003 called Touching the Void. It tells the story of two friends, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates who went on a mountain climbing trip in 1985 to climb the summit of the west face of Siula Grande in Peru, which prior to their attempt, had never been previously achieved by anyone. Of particular interest is the character of Joe Simpson who broke his leg on their descent. You have to watch it to know how he survived it.  There's also a book written by Joe with the same title  published in 1988 (ooh, I want a copy!).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mt. Maculot – Updated Itinerary and Expenses as of October 2016

Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas is one hiking destination that I will tirelessly visit. The easy commute, friendly locals and the tranquil views of Taal Lake from its minor peak called Rockies are the main reasons why I keep on coming back. 

Yesterday, I was here again with my cousin Len, who just survived her first mountain adventure (Wohoo!), Ivan of Batang Laktwatsero and one of my bestfriends - Jules of TheTrail Running Mistress. What made the trip special was our side trip to Taal Lake. Its entry point is in a nearby community, isolated by 1,009 stone steps (as counted by Ivan) from the main road.  

As Mt. Maculot is a haven for a lot of mountaineers, I recommend doing a day tour during the weekend as it tends to get too crowded or if you insist on staying for the night, do it on a Sunday or on a week day. 

There are two main jump-offs – Rockies and Grotto. The latter will lead you directly to the summit but since the views aren’t as spectacular as what can be seen from rockies, it is less visited. The summit trail is through a forest where temperature is much cooler, slippery and a bit foggy. You will also be in for some intimidating rock scrambling about 45 minutes from the grotto where extreme caution is necessary but is worth checking out.  For a full adventure – ascend from the grotto to the summit, rest at the campsite and check out rockies or vice versa. :)

Photo Courtesy of Ivan Cultura - www.ivanlakwatsero.com
0530 - Meet up at LRT-Buendia (Possible Meet-up points : Wendy's, Jollibee, KFC, 7 Eleven or at Jam Terminal) 
0600 Board a bus to Lemery from Jam Liner Terminal (P150)
0900 ETA Cuenca Town proper. Hail a tricycle from the terminal near the market. It’s on the same side where the bus will drop you off. Walk or take a tricycle to Rockies jump-off. Tricycle costs (20 pesos/head, can fit 4 people with day packs). The driver will bring you to the registration area where you need to sign on a log book and pay 20 Pesos/head. You can also get their number in case of emergencies. 
0930 Start trek. 
1130 ETA Campsite, head to Rockies. 
1200 ETA Rockies 
1230 Head back to campsite 
1300 Campsite, start descent
1430 ETA - Jump-off; Clean-up and board a Manila-bound bus from the highway or ride a jeep to Lipa City (24 Pesos/head) and eat in one of the food chains there. There’s a bus terminal bound for Cubao, LRT/Buendia and Alabang near Chowking, across Robinson’s Place.  Be at the terminal by 8:00 PM as the trips back to Manila does not run 24 hours. 

Guides are now required. You will be assigned one at the registration area. For rates, click here.

- Trail is mostly uphill and covered by trees except the area 20 minutes to the campsite. On a humid day, air would be quite stuffy all throughout. 

- Ideal preparation would be to regularly climb stairs

- Waterproof your belongings (put extra clothes, cellphones in a plastic or waterproof bag)
Prepare for both sun and the rain - bring cap or head scarf

- Don’t leave your trash behind. Bring your own garbage bag.  

- At the jump-off, there are places where you can take a bath. Our favorite is the eatery closest to the rockies jump-off. They only have one toilet and several stalls where you can take a bath. It’s not much but we love ate Thelma who cooks the food. 

Water – for a day hike, 1.5ML-2L  
Trail Food - recommended : nuts, chocolate, jelly sticks. 
Insect Repellant (Off Lotion)

If you want to read more about Mt. Maculot, please visit Pinoy Mountaineer's Mt. Maculot

Read about our day hike traverse to Mt. Maculot here.

Just 30-45 minutes away by jeep is the heritage town of Taal. Here, you can explore well-preserved old houses, museums and the largest Catholic church in Asia, Basilica de San Martin de Tours. For additional information, click on this guide.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Friday Post #1 - Reading List

No weekend get-away? Why not immerse in a book that will  you feed your travel lust? Well at least until your next trip. :P I'm sharing with you two of my picks, one of which I saw while rummaging through the selections in Fully Booked. I hope I can grab a copy of these soon. :) I would actually opt to buy books over make-up which is why I don't own a lipstick (ooh, wait, I  do have one - a present from a relative, but I forgot where I placed it, haha!). 

Into the Wild
Photo Source : www.fullybookedonline.com
Author : Jon Krakauer
Price : 598 Pesos (Paperback)
Gist : Written by a New York Times' best-selling author who brought us Into Thin Air, an account of his 1996 Everest expedition that claimed the lives of four of his companions, Into the Wild features Christopher McCandless, a young guy who left his affluent life for the Alaskan wilderness in search for meaning. 

*Don't want to to read the book? Well, there's a movie adaptation from 2007. I've seen it and if you're into backpacking and adventure, there's a high chance, you'll enjoy watching this too. :)

Lunch in Paris
Photo Source : www.fullybookedonline.com 
Author : Elizabeth Bard
Price : 560 Pesos (Paperback)/999 Pesos (Hardcover)
Gist :  I browsed a couple pages and I was drawn to how the story was written. It's about a woman who was in Paris for a weekend, had lunch with a hunkylicious French and instantly falls for him. The story revolves around her two passions - the French guy and the French cuisine. For those who are into cooking, you will also be amused that this book comes with free recipes. 
Happy Reading! Oh, if you know where I can get these at a cheaper price, just message me. :) Thanks! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paete Solo Adventure

Last Sunday, a spur of the moment decision brought me 113 Kilometers southeast of Manila to the quiet town of Paete, Laguna  to check out a hiking trail and an art gallery cafe. 

It started raining by the time the bus reached SLEX and for a moment, I thought about home and how nice it would be to spend the entire day in bed just watching DVD's! Haha! 

Even as I got out of the bus in Sta. Cruz, the rain continued. Brrr, I prepared myself for one wet solitary hike. A jeepney to Siniloan which passes Paete (locals pronounce it as Pie-te) was immediately available by the side of the road. The driver informed me where to get off, a small street with  imposing views of the Sierra Madre. 

Confused where to go, I boarded a tricycle to take me to the jump-off which was just within walking distance from where I started. :P 

Tatlong Krus is a hiking destination which turns into a pilgrimage spot during the Holy Week. The concrete trail starts at Barangay Ilaya Norte amidst a small community of uber chatty and friendly  locals. The steps are established but quite steep. It leads to a forested portion where air is cooler. 

In forty minutes, I made it to the peak. Views of Laguna Bay and the rest of the town can be seen from a veranda at the back of the three crosses. The winds were strong so after taking some photos and chatting with some mountaineers who spent the night there, I went down. 

From the jump-off, Paete Church (officially known as St. James the Apostle Church) is within a short distance. It was rebuilt 1939 after a series of earthquakes destroyed the original structure which was constructed in 1646.

I capped off the day at Kape Kesada, an art gallery along Quesada Street. It was the first art gallery and coffee shop in Paete which was opened 2004 and is owned by Dr. Nilo Valdecantos. During the time I was there, only brewed coffee sourced from Batangas was served. It was good, so good, I drank two cups. 

Brewed Coffee - 65 pesos only, served with Muscovado sugar. Ahhh,  I love cafes that does that! :)

I spent about two hours browsing through paintings and art books. Have I ever mentioned that I was a frustrated painter? I was very much interested in the arts and ballet when I was a kid but it never progressed because I received different directives from my parents. Oh well. :) 

6:00 AM - Wait for buses along EDSA-Boni bound for Sta. Cruz (148.50 Pesos). As an alternate, you can go to the HM Terminal in Cubao, the ones in Alabang (hello South People!) or Buendia near the LRT station.
8:00 AM - ETA - Sta. Cruz. You will be getting off across the bus terminal going back to LRT/Buendia or Cubao. No need to cross the road, jeeps to Siniloan are frequent!
8:15 AM - ETD from Sta. Cruz to Paete via jeepneys to Siniloan  (25 Pesos)
8:45 AM - ETA - Paete Town Proper 
From there, you can buy drinks or snacks from the stores. You can walk to the jump-off. It's near the Barangay Outpost. It's really very near. :) Just ask directions. An alternate is to ride a tricycle from the town proper (10 Pesos/Head). 
9:00 AM - No registration required but don't forget to acknowledge the people you meet along the road. Start Trek from Ilaya Norte. Prepare for concrete uphills!
9:30 AM - Arrival at the blue waiting shed. From here, you will encounter a fork. One leads to Ilaya Sur (where there's a 30-minute trail leading to Matabungka Falls) while the one on the left will bring you to the summit. 
10:00 AM - ETA - Summit marked by 3 Crosses. 
10:30 AM - Start trek down. 
11:10 AM - ETA, Jump-off.
From here, Paete Church and Kape Kesada are within walking distance (less than 15 minutes). Eateries are abundant and you won't have difficulty finding a great place to eat. 

What to Expect From the Hike : 
- Prepare to get wet. I don't know if the current from the river is always strong but when I went here, I had to change to slippers because the water goes up to the ankles.
- Bring mosquito repellant. 
- 500 ml of trail water should be sufficient for a day hike. That is if you don't intend to have a picnic there
Normal Hiking Pace : 40 minutes to One hour. 

Additional References :
Bus Information to Sta Cruz - Backpacking Philippines

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Travel Video - Best 24 Hour-Adventure in Cebu!

A gorgeous weekend to everyone! :)

I'd like to share with you a video of a recent trip to Cebu where we were able to swim with the whale sharks in Oslob, marvel at the Heritage Houses, church and museum in Boljoon and reach the summit of Osmena Peak all in a day! It amuses me how much fun you can have in a short span of time with proper planning and collaboration with friends who equally love travel and adventure!  The clips were shot by one of my companions, Doi (Traveling Feet) and edited by Drew (Trippings by Drew).  (Thank you both!)

Read about the trip here.

Oslob, Boljoon and Osmena Peak in one day from Drew Mamangun on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CamSur High - Journey Up Mt. Asog

Two years ago, a friend invited us to join an outreach program which he helped organized. It was in Iriga, Camarines Sur and the project was a collaboration of various mountaineering clubs in Luzon. I had never toured Cam Sur before, so despite having stitches on my left leg from a rock climbing accident the previous week, I  agreed to go. 

Aside from distributing school supplies and a tree-planting activity, part of the program was a day hike up an old volcano - Mt. Asog. Yay! 

On the second day, a huge dump truck picked us up from our  campsite located at one of Iriga's popular landmarks, the Tinagba Park, which was also named after an old Bicol Thanksgiving ritual. We traveled to the jump-off, an army detachment at Sitio Illian, Brgy. San Nicolas.  It was an adventure to get there. Aside from trying to balance ourselves  because there were no seats inside the truck, it lost its  breaks a few meters from where we were supposed to get off and everyone had to jump out. Fortunately, no one was harmed.  

Tuloy ang akyat!  (On with the climb!)

It rained heavily and in no time, I was smeared with mud everywhere! At one point, my face and teeth had accumulated so much dirt that everyone thought I fell over the mountain. The group had a good laugh over it. :P 

We were able to reach an area where we could see the towns below. 

All Photos Courtesy of Jules, http://www.runningmistress.blogspot.com/

The view at one of its peaks  was supposed to be spectacular. On a clear day, one can see Mt. Mayon and the province of Catanduanes. Unfortunately, all of it was devoured by the fog as shown in photo below (Believe me, that's a summit shot :P). My friend was able to reach the peak while I had to stop walking a few meters away. My stitches began to hurt and I needed to rest to have enough strength to get down. It reminded me again of what was taught to us during a Basic Mountaineering Course conducted by the First Philippine Everest Team - "Reaching the summit is optional but going down is mandatory.". 

A regular day hike would take four hours to get to the summit and perhaps twice as less to get down. I don't remember how many hours it took us but it was already dark when everyone got back to our pick-up point. We were all hungry! 

A climb in Mt. Asog can be combined with a side trip to Lake Buhi where Sinarapan, the world's smallest commercially harvested fish can be found. Mt. Isarog, a taller mountain which has two known jump-offs - Brgy. Panicuason and Consocep Base camp in Tigaon,   is also located within the province. 

Interested to climb Mt. Asog? An itinerary can be found here - Mt. Asog.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Year-End Climb : Mt. Balagbag Day Hike Traverse

As we started our hike down a rough road, we were welcomed with genuine smiles from the residents of Barangay Karahume in Rizal. A few meters farther, we ran into a crowd, comprising of members of the Dumagat tribe who traveled to receive supplies provided by a government official. They gave out curious, friendly looks to which I returned a jovial greeting. With me was a new acquaintance, a  fellow hiker who has explored several trails within Mt. Balagbag. I was informed that we were doing a traverse and I was ecstatic - as always. 

From the road side, we descended to a river trail that led to Ocho-Ocho Falls, where we had to climb five small falls. We bumped into another group - one of which was a fellow blogger - Dermin of The Quixotic World.

I had already ascended  about 15 feet of the fourth fall. On the last but toughest portion, my nerves started to get the best of me. Water was flowing everywhere and being acrophobic, I felt anxious about the altitude. I hang on to a  rock, unsure what to do. I had no firm grip on anything. "I'm going to fall."  I thought to myself. 

Since my rock climbing accident two years ago where I incurred 7 stitches and unable to walk properly for two weeks, I've been fearful of climbing on boulders - specifically wet ones or anything that recreates the environment where I fell
I  called out to my companion and told her I was having difficulty making my way up.  I know she couldn't do anything about it. I had to figure it out on my own  and forced myself to think straight. I even called out to God (yes, I was really, really scared!). Finally, I found something to hang on to and while holding my breath, pushed myself upwards. I made it! I was happy but my energy was drained. During our lunch stop, I consumed a lot of food to make up for the lost calories I burned trying to get myself together. Haha!

The rest of the trail, though quite hot on the first hour, was quite manageable.  We reached the summit in about two hours, minus lunch time. There, we feasted on the views of  nearby mountains and the Sierra Madre Mountain Range  (another dream hike!). 

We went down using the Rotary Trail which had thicker foliage. It was already dark when we finally reached Barangay Karahume where we rented a tricycle that took us back to the main highway

This challenging and rewarding hike up Mt. Balagbag was a fitting way to say goodbye to 2011. Here's to more adventures for 2012! :)

Extreme precautions must be carried out when climbing waterfalls. Protective equipment such as helmet and ropes is recommended.  Also, please check the weather and don't push through your trip in case of heavy rains. (For weather updates, I visit the PAGASA website and Accuweather.)

Two good sources are available online:

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