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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Baguio City : The White House

With its exteriors painted in white, the house that withstood World War II at Leonard Wood Road is believed to be haunted. Built in the 1920's, it was originally owned by the Laperal clan, one of the most prominent families in Baguio at that time. It was purchased in 2007 by business magnate Lucio Tan, but he only goes here for brief visits. In fact, I was told that he was just here a few days back. 

As it's considered a private property, it is usually closed to visitors. However, due to the bamboo exhibit which is targeted to run until March 2013, its decades-old doors have been opened to curious travelers dying to peak what's inside one of Baguio's famous eerie structures. 

During the war, the house was turned into a headquarters of the Japanese imperial army. It was around this time when the people who occupied the house were murdered. Based from what I have read, it has not been established whether the occupants were killed by the Japanese or another group. 

Living room area 
Similar to Teacher's Camp, which is just a few blocks away, many stories have circulated around the web and among the locals regarding ghost sightings and hair-raising experiences inside the house. Some of which involves a child standing at the front porch, a woman standing by the 3rd floor window and caretakers unable to breath when they try to sleep inside the house. It has also been the subject of a documentary by GMA 7 (Watch here).

Alone, I went inside its gates bursting with a happy and excited energy. It was my first time inside the house and incidentally, I also get to see some bamboo art! The caretaker stayed by the door near the porch. Unfortunately, the two, very much human visitors I saw was just leaving as I came in.  

Photo taken at the dining area
The bamboo exhibit was at the dining area on the first floor. It features an impressive collection of the works of bamboo carvers from Asin in Tuba, Benguet. I was amazed at the intricate details of each piece which used treated Kawayang Tinik, a variety of bamboo sourced from Porac, Pampanga. 

Roldan Pait,  the friendly President of Asin Bamboo Carvers Guild. I was able to meet  him as I was
about to exit the house. We had a brief chat about the works on exhibit. :)
Some of the works are on the floor while some are perched at the dining table
I was still in a cheery mood as I approached the staircase. It took a few minutes for me to shut down the freaky thoughts boiling inside my head, taking slow steps as I walked inside one of the rooms that attracted my attention. It was huge, very spacious and has its own fireplace. Apart from the bed, there were no other furnitures or other fixtures in it. I stayed for a few minutes at the second floor mainly because I was enamored with its design. It has high ceilings giving it an airy feel! :) 

Master's bedroom
Having experienced several supernatural encounters in the past, I have acknowledged the existence of what was beyond normal but I am thankful that for this instance, I able to walk out of the house with no negative energy lingering in me or other beings following me home, which was experienced by a previous visitor (read here). I did not sense any eerie vibes. I felt light and very much invited except for the area near a narrow staircase leading to the 3rd floor. It was not open for viewing anyway. 

White House Open House & Bamboo Carving Exhibit
#4 Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City
Open Weekends and Holidays, 10AM-6PM
Entrance Fee : 50 Pesos
Organized by : Tan Yan Kee Foundation and Philippine Bamboo Foundation, Inc. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mt. Lobo, Batangas

The peak of Mt. Lobo can be seen from a resting area, two hours from the summit
Though I keep on meeting a lot of new and awesome people, I have not forgotten trusted and reliable hiking buddies from way, way back. Personal goals and new priorities may have affected the amount of time we spend together but we make it a point to keep in touch or in this case, go out for a hike at least once a year. 

A day before our trip, Tan, former schoolmate and hiking buddy from 2008, agreed to check out Mt. Lobo in Batangas. I coordinated with our guide, Jay Bondoc who was a bit surprised with the short notice but accommodated us anyway. :) (Contact Number at the Travel Notes section below)

The following morning, two more friends joined us, Dan and Abet. We met at Jollibee along LRT-Buendia so we can grab some breakfast before the trip. We boarded the first "Batangas Pier bound" bus (125 Pesos) we saw right outside Jollibee which was a mistake. The driver seemed inexperienced driving under the rain and we moved so slowly that majority of the buses and other vehicles traveling at the Star Tollway just breezed past us. 

Travel to the Grand Terminal in Batangas took two hours. (Note : A more efficient route from LRT-Buendia would be to board a bus straight to Balagtas. We weren't able to verify which bus company but you can check Ceres Transport, terminal's also near the LRT Gil Puyat Station.) From the Grand Terminal, we took a jeep to Balagtas (13 Pesos). Here, you can use the restrooms or buy some refreshments. From Balagtas, we took another jeep (8 Pesos) to the Lobo terminal where we boarded another jeep to the town proper (53 Pesos). A tricycle took us to the jump-off at Sitio Curba, Barangay Nagtaluntong (70 Pesos/4 Persons). Whew! 

We met with our guide Jay at the army detachment where we also registered. No fees had to be paid. By 10:24 AM, we crossed our first river. Water level reached the top of our ankles:P. 

First hour of the trail was through a farming community where we saw a relaxing view of hills and rice fields. The terrain was practically flat, though slightly muddy and rocky on some parts. After 90 minutes of hiking, we reached Katiting falls which couldn't be more than 10 feet tall. Its waters gush into a deep but narrow pool. 

After the falls, trail started sloping up and down, passing in the middle of a forest. The merrymaking sound of birds could be heard and various species of trees, some are fruit-bearing can be seen as we moved further up. There were not much steep ascents however, terrain was quite muddy and slippery. 

Each step becomes heavier than the next one as our shoes accumulated more dirt. But it was hard to be annoyed with this amusing trail that made me feel as though I'm in an enchanted place. We crossed several more streams and midway our hike, I glanced at my watch and figured we couldn't make it to the summit in time for the last jeepney ride back to Balagtas which was at 5:00 PM. Two of my friends have families of their own and there was no way we can spend the night at Lobo, but I was too enamored with the scenic trail that featured different plants and trees to feel disappointed. 

We made it to this hut, a popular resting place for hikers where you can also request for lunch in advance. We consoled ourselves with coconut juice that was just picked from a tree, just a few minutes ago. The summit of Mt. Lobo can be seen from where we sat and we can only laugh at ourselves for traveling this far for a drink of coconut juice,. The peak seemed so near yet we were still two hours away! Oh well, we are meant to come back some other time. 

Travel Notes : 
 - After your hike, you can wash up at one of the homes near the army detachment. Just ask  your guide.
- Remember to take note of the last trip back to Balagtas. As of December 2012, last jeep from Lobo to Balagtas is at 5:00 PM, next one is at 2:00 AM). From Batangas City, you also need to check out the last bus back to Manila. We couldn't help but wish we brought a car instead so we could have started earlier. You can leave it near the jump-off.
- A more detailed itinerary can be found at the ever-reliable Pinoy Mountaineer site. :) Here you can see that the ideal departure time from Manila is at 4:00 AM.
Guide : Jay - +639357851477 (new number as of April 2013)
Rate : 500 Pesos for two PAX, add some extra if more than 2

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