a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Friday, March 30, 2012

Reminiscing Mt. Guiting-Guiting, Romblon

I am blaming the talented photographer/mountaineer Arnel for this post. 

I was supposed to start packing for two trips this weekend but since packing is my least favorite thing about traveling, I decided to prolong the agony even more by logging on to Facebook to check out some updates.

Among the notifications I received was that Arnel placed a comment on another friend’s album of our 2009 climb at Mt. Guiting-Guiting (or G2 to local mountaineers). He will be climbing it next week, along with another common friend of ours, fellow blogger, The Quixotic World. G2 is one of the Philippines' toughest mountains with a difficulty rating of 9/9. 

As of this moment, Arnel is energetically posting videos, browsing various photos and blogs. His enthusiasm somehow transcended cyberspace and I found myself happily immersed on the same album, browsing through our old photos and watching the videos which he had uploaded.  

Indeed, Mt. Guiting-Guiting is one of my favorite mountains and our trip in 2009 was one of the most memorable hikes I have ever done (Read about it here). It is on this same mountain where I had battled my acrophobia (which still exists to this day :P), incurred the most number of bruises and lacerations in a span of 24 hours, had a monumental bonding experience  with hiker friends and saw remarkable views of water cascading down several peaks as clouds lazily float over it. 




JZ at the summit


Knife Edge - cliffs on both sides, wah!
I miss you Mt. Guiting-Guiting! Rest of the photos from our trip are uploaded at JZ's site - Lagablab

Good luck Arnel, The Quixotic World and to the rest of your group on your G2 Expedition. :)

JZ - thank you for convincing me to join the climb back in 2009! :)

Itinerary can be found at Gideon Lasco's - Pinoy Mountaineer.  Do check the comments section for more travel tips from fellow hikers. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Urban Adventure - Makati on Foot

What to do when you're saving up for future travels yet itching to go out without spending money? Just step out of the house, explore a couple of blocks and amuse yourselves with the sights you normally ignore during an ordinary week! :)

Yesterday morning, I ventured away  from my usual running route along Rockwell Drive and passed through unfamiliar alleys in Makati. Since it was a Saturday, not many people were around and I was able to enjoy the streets without having to dodge the crowds. I found two places which I've been meaning to check out - Museo ng Makati fronting the Poblacion Barangay hall and the Filipinas Heritage Library along Ayala Triangle. I was even able to take a photo in the middle of Paseo de Roxas which is always congested with cars on busy days. 

I nearly crawled on my way back home due to thirst and the heat. When I mapped my route using one of the online distance calculators - Map My Run, I found out that I covered a minimum of 10KM that morning. No wonder I was was so hungry when I got back! :P

Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge
This boat floating at the Pasig River has always amused me
Ayala Triangle
Ah,  a rare sight - a deserted Paseo de Roxas!  
Jaime Velasquez Park at Salcedo Village - didn't know this existed :P

Saturday, March 24, 2012

High Altitude Honeymoon in Mt. Pulag

Two weeks ago,  a couple friend who are both mountaineers got married.  Several hours after their wedding reception, me and 10 others joined them in Benguet for their honeymoon and first climb as a married duo to Luzon's highest peak - Mt. Pulag. 

We ascended the mountain via the Ambangeg trail, which is popular as the easiest route up. The trail is mostly even and the  slopes are mild. However, you start at a high altitude and the thin air can get to you. That's what happened to me so I had a rough time. I felt dehydrated,  moved like snail and was out of breath for more than half of the way. Death came to mind as I breathe like I was having an asthma attack.  I managed to get to the saddle campsite - which is 90 minutes from the summit in 5 hours.
  



The cold was so much more than I had expected so I turned in early after we had dinner.  I actually thought I could not survive the night because all the layers I've put on were not enough to warm me up as I was alone inside the tent. Wah! 

The following day, I bid goodbye to the group. Me and my guide Soriano left the camp at 5:30 AM to climb down via the Akiki trail where we witnessed the sunrise. :) 

Akiki Sunrise 
We passed by the mossy forest, a grassy area called Marlboro (after that famous commercial) and the dreaded pine tree forest where I fell and hit my back on wood. Soriano had to carry my backpack until we reached Eddet River until I fully recovered. Then I had to carry it again for the next two hours of our descent. The pain was worth it because the views were awesome! I am looking forward to do a day hike traverse in Mt. Pulag some day. :)



Mt. Pulag, the Philippines' 3rd highest mountain is a destination that has been treaded a thousand times by hikers - both local and foreign.  Ambangeg Trail in Bokod, Benguet offers the easiest access  with its forgiving rolling terrain and can be climbed by first timers with ample preparation and precaution.  

Trip Details :
Itinerary Can be found here : Ambangeg Trail / Akiki-Ambangeg Trail
Ideal Budget : 3,500 Pesos or less 
The number of people in your group will impact the budget required because of the guide fee and the transport arrangements from Baguio to Ambangeg which can be split among yourselves.  

Two Key Contact Persons in Climbing Mt. Pulag :
Ms. Gina (Jeepney Arrangements from Baguio to Mt. Pulag jump-offs) - she is a bubbly legend among local mountaineers. Usual pick-up point is at Victory Liner Baguio. From here, Ambangeg jump-off is 5 hours.  You can also request for a side trip to the scenic Ambuklao Dam before your climb. 
Rate : 8,500 per jeepney which can sit 16 people with backpacks
Smaller groups can text ms. Gina and ask if you can join other groups to save on the cost 
Solo climbers - can also go to Pulag without hiring a jeepney. Tips are available at the comments section of Pinoy Mountaineer 
Contact Number : Ms. Gina - 09198169234 / 09999916008
*Tent rentals are also available at the ranger station via Ambangeg Trail

Ms. Mereng Albas - Protected Area Superintendent (PASU)
You need to contact her in prior to your climb and provide her the dates, number of heads and your name. Currently, they are allocating the camping areas to avoid overcrowding . Via the Ambangeg trail, there are two possible campsites - Camp 2 and 3.  Both are good locations to camp.  
Contact Number : 0919-6315402

Mt. Pulag Guide &Porter Rates :
Mt. Pulag has their own association of guides and porters and you can get an accredited guide at the Badabak Ranger Station.  A receipt will be issued after paying the guide fee. 
Via Ambangeg Trail : 500/weekend for 5 people and 100 pesos/head in excess of which. Max is 10  people for 1 guide. 
*Porters are also available at  P300/day. (Please be considerate of the load you allocate to porters). You also need to provide the porter bag. 
Note : You need to provide them food. As for their water and lodging, they already have their own provisions.

Via Ambangeg-Akiki Trail or vice versa : P1,800/guide (good for 3D/2N);  One guide : 8 persons  
Porters may also be secured at P1,500 (3D/2N) 

Registration Fee : 200 Pesos/Head inclusive of camping fee, DENR fee and entrance fee - this is paid at the Ambangeg  or Akiki Visitor's Center. No exit fee needs to be paid when doing a traverse. 

Tour Operators :
Coby - TrailAdventours - +63 917-5827517
R.O.X. Signature Tours - the tour operator under Southeast Asia's biggest outdoor superstore also conducts several Pulag climbs within the year 
Inquire at R.O.X. Facebook Page or call  +63 (02)856-4638 or 39 

Shout out to my guide Soriano who did an amazing job! He made sure I was okay the entire time and provided accurate estimates on how we're progressing during the climb. You see, some guides will tell you that you're only 15 minutes away from the next stop when it's actually 3 hours. :P  Thanks also to Vince Gapuz who recommended him to me. Vince was our guide when he hiked from Kabayan to Mt. Timbac last year. (Post here.)

To Mors and Tan - congratulations on your new life! Thank you for inviting me on your honeymoon! :) 

Urban Magic - Places to Visit Around Manila

Though I was born and raised in various cities around Luzon, my heart is that of a small-town lass with preference for mountain views over skyscrapers and knowing who my neighbors are. The high-rise buildings and the huge highways are indeed amazing but the noise, pollution and the hurried way of life is stressful. All those people rushing to catch the train and cars careening down the highway like ambulances are driving me crazy.

Thanks to the online community, I found the following places worth checking out. :P Here's my list, please feel free to comment if you have other recommendations. :)  (I am into books and paintings but I'd have to admit that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to interpreting art, thus the selection.)

1. Filipinas Heritage Library (Makati)
Reason to Visit : "The Library houses over 13,000 contemporary volumes on Philippine history, art, language, religion and the social sciences, and over 2,000 rare titles, rare books on microfiche, maps, and an extensive library of slides and photographs." - Filipinas Library
Address (updated Jan. 2013) : its old location at the Ayala Triangle has closed and  moved to nearby Ayala Museum. It will reopen on March 23, 2013. New Address : 6th Floor, Ayala Museum, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, 1220 Makati
(thanks to anonymous reader for sharing this info. The FB page of Filipinas Heritage Library has also provided this info.)
Website : http://www.filipinaslibrary.org.ph
Facebook: Filipinas Heritage Library 


2. National Museum (Manila)
Reason to Visit : " As a cultural center, the National Museum takes the lead in the study and preservation of the nation's rich artistic, historical and cultural heritage in the reconstruction and rebuilding of our nation's past and veneration of the great pioneers who helped in building our nation." - National Museum
Address : Padre Burgos Drive, Manila
Website : http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph
How to get here 
Business Hours :  Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Free admission on Sundays

3. Museo ng Makati (Makati)
Reason to Visit : " ...showcases a number of well preserved artifacts, treasures, and relics that speak of Makati city’s historical and cultural heritage" - My Manila Hotels 
Address : Corner of JP Rizal St. and Mabini St.
Business Hours : Open from Monday to Friday at 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Admission is free.


4. Ayala Museum  (Makati)
Reason to Visit : Mainly because I have a friend who said it was worth the visit. :)
Address : Makati Avenue cor. De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt Park, Ayala Center
Website : http://www.ayalamuseum.org/
Business Hours :
Monday - Closed
Tuesday-Friday 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday & Sunday - 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM

5. Pinto Art Museum  (Antipolo City)
Reason to Visit : An artistic friend whose taste I trust said she was awestruck when she stepped into this place, so I must go! :)
Address : Grandheights, Antipolo City. 
Business Hours : 
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM 
Phone (632)697-1015
Email : pintoartmusem@yahoo.com

Monday, March 19, 2012

Salomon X-Trail Run 2012 - Tagaytay Highlands

I thought I'd take a rest from trail running this year but when I received an invite to try a route for an upcoming race by Salomon, a French mountain sports brand, I could not say no. 

You see, weeks before the test run, word got around that the 24KM route is the toughest trail course ever designed within Tagaytay Highlands by the charming and sadistic race organizer - Neville Manaois. Their group is responsible for coming up with routes that caused the death of a thousands toe nails, induced powerful muscle cramps and made runners discover body parts they never thought could hurt.

Under the belt of the organizing team are grueling routes of popular races such as The North Face Baguio, TNF CamSur, 1st Nathan Ridge Run, 2010 Salomon X-Trail Subic and more. While I can hardly be considered a strong runner, my alter-ego - the masochist, hyperactive, nature lover was drawn (such eccentric and scary combination!).

Last Saturday, together with 12 other runner bloggers, members of the Philippine Skyrunning Association and Salomon's Brand Manager - triathlete and podium finisher Janice Tañada, we got more than a glimpse of the trails and  finished with some scratches and plants clinging on our clothes. Needless to say, I was pretty much breathless the entire run. :P

You're going to be in for some wonderfully steep surprises! See you inTagaytay Highlands on March 31, 2012. :)




The trail guinea pigs. Photo Courtesy of Mr. Rene Villarta - www.jazzrunner.wordpress.com
P.S. Sorry to inform you that as of this writing,registration for all divisions have closed.

Race Reminders :
1.The Salomon Xtrail Pilipinas event is a green run event.  Part of being a green event means NO plastic cups, NO bottles will be given away. All runners should to bring their own hydration bottle/belt/gear/bag.  

2. The route will be 60% trail 40% road for the 6K and 12k categories.  The 24km route will be 70% trail, 30% road.  The trail surface is soil & rocks.  There will be no river crossing, but a creek might form if it rains. 

3. What to wear : It is best that you wear trail running shoes for the 24K event.  It is recommended that you wear trail running shoes for 12k and 6k.  You probably can finish the 6k with road running shoes. We recommend that you use trail shoes for the run to avoid untoward incidents. However, we cannot stop you guys from wearing any shoe of your choice.

4. Transportation Arrangements :
You have the option to add 350 in the registration fee, for a chartered bus from ROX BHS to Midlands & back.  If you wish to bring along companions, just indicate it on your form and pay for the additional fees.  As of March 12, you are only allowed to bring 1 additional companion after you pay the additional 350 fee.

Walk-ins in Tagaytay Highlands are not allowed. If you are not a member of Tagaytay Highlands, you need to coordinate with Salomon if you are bringing your own car.
Please contact them at : feedback@salomonxtrailpilipinas.com 

Race Website : Salomon X-Trail Pilipinas / Facebook 
Tagaytay Highlands on Facebook 
Tagaytay Highlands Website 

Special thanks to Primer Group's PR team, the lovable Laira Legaspi and Mico Angelo Omac for taking care of us, the management of Tagaytay Highlands for the awesome fish fillet lunch and tour. To Janice Tañada of Salomon, Mariel Flores of Nathan Sports Philippines and Team R.O.X.. -  thank you for allowing us to see a  preview of the hard work you've done to encourage people to try the trails! :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tribute Thursday - Jules, the Trail Running Mistress

Mt. Ampacao, Sagada - 2010
If there are ladies labeled as Little Miss Sunshine, my good friend Jules, back in her high school days was the runaway title holder for Miss Scary Dark Clouds. She stalks the halls of our classroom with her back hunched a couple of centimeters to the floor as though she has this invisible thread tied to the waste of Hades. :P The overenthusiastic, obsessive, always laughing little version of me just could not find a way to mesh with her so our paths hardly crossed.

A year after high school, all the bad vibes that's partially attributed to teenage drama , melted off from Jules when she co-founded our college's first outdoor club and she was able to excavate tremendous delight in exploring the outdoors and extend it to others. Her MSDC title became a myth and we've become great friends and adventure buddies since.
Trek to the Secret Falls :P
Today, Jules works with an NGO that allows her to travel to Mindanao extensively. She has also found love in the form of a sport called sky running (running at mountains with an elevation of 2,000 MASL & above). We continue to travel together when our schedules jive and  like in college, we still confide to each other about our little dramas at the most unusual circumstances - be it while hiking in the mountains, while river trekking, riding a habal-habal or wherever.

Read about her running adventures on her blog, the Trail Running Mistress. My favorite read was the story when she hiked Mt. Apo in a day. :) You can also follow her on Facebook .

To bffeeee Jules - thank you for supporting my crazy adventures and mishaps! :) 

See past Tribute Thursday Post on Gay, Pinay Travel Junkie here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Munching Around Tadian, Mountain Province

Before I hopped on a bus bound for the Cordilleras, I had announced to friends that I would be hiking and exploring Tadian. But it was Ayyoweng di Lambak ed Tadian festival that weekend and food poured all over town! Me and my ever-reliable backpacking buddy could not convince our feet to go anywhere and so our raging tummies prevailed and relentlessly led us to different booths and stalls where we gorged on local cuisine and various street foods.  
And we felt the warm welcome indeed! Variants of rice grains displaced at the food expo
 We had one day to go around so we weren't able to do much. We spent practically the entire Saturday on the road where we witnessed both sunrise and sunset from the windows of our seats. When we arrived in Tadian, after 13 hours of bonding with both paved and dusty routes, we were faint with exhaustion and our stomachs clamored for good food.
Highway to Tadian
View from our bedroom that definitely adds sunshine to mornings!
We stayed and ate meals at the home of Tadian's amiable tourism officer, Ms. Lynber who I corresponded with last year for a possible exploration in Mt. Mogao. I promise next time I come back, I will definitely test the trails of Tadian. :P I actually have more photos of food in my collection than its landscape. Hihi!

Road back to ms. Lynber's home
One of our interesting  finds is puto made from Balintataw rice which is an odd looking combination of white and black grains. The dough is soft and very tasty - like a regular puto but with more flavor (sorry for the lack of a better description as my taste buds are limited to two flavors - masarap at hindi masarap :P) . Another one is long john, a delectable 5-Peso bread with a sexy name that is served at Family Bakeshop and Cafe located near the market. 
Puto (steamed buns) made from Balintataw Rice
Pancit
Long john! I ingested a lot of these during our stay. Best eaten fresh from the oven. 
Thank you Tadian and similar to what that valient general has promised, I too shall  return! :)

How to Get to Tadian via Public Transportation:
1. Take a bus from Manila to Baguio. Victory Liner (455 Pesos from Pasay terminal where I always ride), Genesis (Cubao) and Philippine Rabbit are the popular buslines to Baguio. Travel Time : 6 hours
2. From Baguio, take an A Trans bus to Sumadel (180 Pesos). This goes straight to Tadian. It has daily but limited trips per day and I'm not even sure what time it starts because we took the "ala-Amazing Race" route to get to Tadian, which extended travel time to an hour more.  
Travel Time : 5-6 hours 
As an alternate, you can also take a Manila-Bontoc-Tadian route. Upon arrival in Bontoc, take a van to Tadian. (Travel Time : 2 hours) If you take the evening Cable Tour bus from Manila (12 hours), you should have plenty of time to catch one of the vans to Tadian. 

Tadian Tourism Officer - Lynber Micklay - 0921-5483356

Notes :
Avoid wearing revealing outfits or short shorts. If possible, wear cargo pants or capri. 
Tadian is approximately 1 hour from Cervantes, Ilocos Sur which is a great exit point . Here you can visit the historic Bessang pass. This is where the Japanese imperial forces led by General Yamashita were defeated by the United States Armed forces in 1945 which paved for the end of the traumatizing Japanese occupation in the Philippines. 

What to Do/See in Tadian: 
1. Hike Mt. Mogao -  a hill surrounded by mountains. Gawaan Lake at its foot can also be visited.
2. Singing Jar - Brgy. Kayan West owner by Mr. Resurreccion Wanget Sr. They say the jar produces different sounds even if it's rubbed the same way by different individuals. You need to coordinate with the tourism office to schedule a visit. 
3. Cagubatan Lake - Brgy. Cagubatan which is home to eels. 
4. Am-Am Observatory Rock - Sitio Am-am, Brgy. Cadad-anan. Here you can get a  scenic view of the town and of other municipalities such as Mankayan and Cervantes, Ilocos Sur.
5. Visit a weaver's home

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