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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Monday, June 15, 2015

Attractions in Tarlac

I've done several hikes in Tarlac in 2012 and 2013 but I never got to explore much because we normally just head straight to the base of the mountain. Three weeks ago, I joined a media familiarization tour hosted by Microtel by Wydham and we got to enjoy some of the destinations around Tarlac that proves that it's more than "just an expanse of flat land". 

Here are places you can visit around Tarlac : 
Aquino Center & Museum - owned and managed by the Ninoy & Cory Aquino foundation, this museum and events venue houses the artifacts and memorabilia of two prominent Filipino politicians, democracy icons, Senator Ninoy and wife, former president Cory Aquino.  
Photo taken at the main entrance of the museum
Aquino Center & Museum
Location : Barangay San Miguel, Tarlac City
Rates : 
Adults - 100 Pesos
*discounted rates offered to Senior citizens and students 
Business Hours :
Open daily, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM 
Closed on New Year, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Christmas
Contact Information : +63(45)985-09-68/985-09-69
Email : aquinocenter@ncaf.ph
*For inquiries on school trips and events, please contact them directly. 

Monasterio de Tarlac  

Established by the Servants of the Risen Christ, a religious group of men devoted to a life of prayer and work, this Monastery situated on a mountain top offers a beautiful vantage of the nearby peaks in San Jose. Its prominent marker  is a 30-foot statue of the Risen Christ which can be seen from surrounding towns below it.  It is also flocked by religious devotees as it chapel holds a relic of the True Cross, believed to be the cross where Jesus was crucified. 

Monasterio de Tarlac
San Jose, Tarlac 
Mass Schedule : 

Tarlac Recreational Park (TRP)
Managed by the local tourism of Tarlac, this 78-hectare property offers an impressive range of activities for sports and outdoor lovers at reasonable prices.
Kayaking at the lagoon, one of the many activities that can be done in TRP
Formerly the venue of the 2010 Palarong Pambansa, one of the Philippines' biggest sporting events and a scouting ground  for national athletes, the place has an athletics oval  and Olympic-size pool (with a kiddie pool beside it!) which visitors can use.

For outdoor lovers who want to try a little bit of everything, there's a  lagoon for kayakers, a wall climbing facility, camping grounds with barbeque pits, fishing area, a short zipline that crosses the lagoon, Dune buggy and karting tracks, bike trails, and an area for airsoft. 

With all the activities you can do around here, you can actually allocate an entire day for a visit. They also have pavilions for private events, perfect for team building or clan reunions. :)
Olympic size pool

Tarlac Recreational Park
Operating Hours for Activities : Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 AM-5:00 PM  
*Cut-off for registration at 4:30 PM   (If coming from outside Tarlac, please email/call them to confirm business hours before going) 
For activity rates,  visit their website, Tarlac Ecotourism 
Facebook Page :Tarlac Ecotourism  
Tel No. +63 (045) 493 – 2471 
Email: tarlacecotourism@gmail.com 
Kart City Tarlac (KCT)

Located just across SM Tarlac where buses from Manila pass by, this highly accessible karting facility offers European made karts for rent. Their track configuration changes to cater to regulars.What I particularly like about this place is that it also offers other activities for people who are not into karting. Just outside the track is an area for billiards, videoke and their diner, Chaps Cafe (don't miss the pizza rolls and pata tim! I'd come back here for the food alone :P)

Kart City Tarlac (KCT)

McArthur Highway (in front of SM Tarlac)
Tarlac, Tarlac
Contact Number : +63 (045) 491 4053
Business Hours : Open daily, 3:00 PM - 12:00 MN
10:00 - 02:00 (Sundays)
Website : KCT
Facebook Page : Kart City Tarlac (KCT)
Rates : (inclusive of suit, eye protection)

Image courtesy of Microtel by Wyndham
Microtel by Wydham offers 50 clean, comfortable rooms and suites. Their beds are all queen size and chiropractor-approved (very nice to sleep on!) This branch which garnered a lot of positive reviews at the travel website, Trip Advisor  was recently awarded with the TripAdvisor Certification of Excellence 2015. 

Another thing I liked about this hotel is the stable and fast free wifi. During my stay, I had to catch up on some work in the morning and badly needed a decent internet connection. It was a huge relief that I got things done.  :) I also love that they have a nook where you can get free coffee, tea and water. 

Its location, though a bit of a walk from  Mac Arthur highway, a major road in Tarlac where buses and cars pass by also serves as an advantage because you get some peace and quiet. Nearby attractions include the Aquino Center & Museum (it's actually just beside it, separated by a garden) and Luisita Golf & Country club which has an 18-hole championship course. Trips to other destinations such as Monasterio de Tarlac and TRP, can also be arranged through their reception. 

the cozy, Queen suite where I stayed. Photo taken before I made a mess :P
Microtel Luisita
Luisita, San Miguel, Tarlac
Email : tarlac@microtel.ph
Rates start at 2,560 Pesos for a room with 1 queen size bed but can also be lower depending on when you book. 
Website : Microtel Tarlac
How to get here? From North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), take SCTEX exit 85 and take the rightmost lane going to Tarlac. Exit at Luisita and turn right, then go straight. Microtel is on your right side, before McArthur Highway. They also offer pick-up from Luisita for those who are taking the public transportation. 

Related posts on Tarlac :
This tour around Tarlac was made possible by Microtel by Wyndham. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Meeting Mt. Sialdang/Halcon

May 18, 2015 holds a  happy event in my outdoor life that I want to share with you. :) After months of planning and training, I finally reached the summit of one of my dream mountains - Mt. Sialdang or popularly known in the local hiking community as Mt. Halcon. 

*Mt. Sialdang is the name given by the locals to the mountain. 
Me at the summit of Mt. Halcon. Photo taken by Gene Gonzales
This beautiful mountain, the highest peak in the province of Oriental Mindoro at a height of 2,582 MASL and 18th among the mountains in the Philippines has been on my hike list for years now. Closed in 2006 by local officials and the DENR, it was only in March 2015 when clear policies were put into place, making hiking activities official from February 1 to May 31 of each year. I was not going to let this year pass without visiting! :) 

It is rated with a difficulty level of 9/9 and  although it's trails are not as technical as what I've seen in other Philippine mountains like Guiting-Guiting or Dulang-Dulang, it's still very steep and arduously loooong! It took us 1.5 days to reach the summit and with the poor traction of my shoe, I found it even more challenging to hike down. It was excruciating to the knees! 
Photo About 30 minutes to the summit
Despite the challenging trail, 
I fell in love with its lush forests and variety of terrain. We hiked through mossy forests, crossed open trails with banana trees everywhere, passed several small falls and crossed a big river.  We were fortunate that limatiks (leeches) were not so active when were there and me and 3 others in our group managed to escape a bite. :)

Its summit is nothing I've seen before, it is scattered with cuts and slabs of marble and surrounded with colorful shrubs and although we were only given 5 minutes of clearing, we still saw a rewarding view of clouds and nearby mountains. 
Summit break. Photo taken by Gene Gonzales
Crossing the breathtaking Dulangan River. This was also where we set camp for two nights. 
I am already excited to go back next year! :) 

To my Halcon buddies - Allen Yatco, Gene Gonzales, Eric Leron and Carlos, thank you and hope to see you again soon! :) 

Below is a copy of our climbing log and expenses for your reference. 
Climbing Log (via Lantuyan trail): 
Day 0 - May 16, 2015 
- Took the 11:00 AM Fastcat ferry to Calapan
- after arriving in Calapan, we rented a tricycle to Baco from the pier (we stopped over at Jollibee Calapan for 
a quick lunch)
- went to Baco Tourism office to process our permit (advance coordination necessary) 
5:30 PM - ETA, Lantuyan, checked in at Tagbungan Mountain Resort for proper rest

Day 1 - May 17, 2015
6:30 AM Start (assault)
9:00 AM Limatik Infested trail
10:30 AM Big water source (we heard voices when we resumed trekking)
11:30 AM Aplaya (Dungawan) (refilled water at a nearby falls)
12:30pm Aplaya camp site 
2:30pm Dulangan Campsite (river crossing)

Day 2 - May 18, 2015
4:00 AM Start
6:00 AM Last water source before intense assault
8:30 AM Knife-edge
9:15 AM Summit
10:30am Descend summit
3:30pm Back at Dulangan campsite

Day 3 - May 19, 2015
7:10 AM Start descent
8:30 AM Aplaya campsite
11:00 AM Border (Boses / Limatik Trail)
11:45 AM Kubo(kaingin)

12:50 PM Back at jumpoff at Lantuyan 
8:00 PM took Montenegro Ferry back to Batangas Pier 
10:00 PM ETA, Batangas Pier
12 MN ETA, EDSA Magallanes 

Other Information :
Hiking season is February 1-May 31 of each year. 

Advance coordination is required to hike Mt. Halcon, please visit Mt. Halcon - Pinoy Mountaineer for more details.

Contact person : 
Jojo (Baco Tourism Office) - +63 9198821442

My Training Plan
I got sick two weeks before the hike but as I started training months ahead, I was able to develop endurance and the adjustment during the actual hike was not as bad as I expected. 

I trained on my own for  2-3 times a week and the exercises comprised of the following : 

Swimming - 2-3 times a week, 1 hour per session
Elliptical machine - at least 15 minutes ( I hated this :P)
Stairs training - at least 1x a week (I practiced in our office building)
Time & budget permitting - 1 hiked at least 1-2x a month

Diet : 

As I was recovering from sickness,  I fueled my body with good food like quinoa, veggies and fish 5 days before our trip. It really worked well and I felt light and agile during the hike. 

Trail Food & Hydration:

Dried cranberries, GU Energy Gel, peanuts, 500 ML of Pocari Sweat and 500 ML of Gatorade, 1 liter of water. There are several water sources so it was enough to get me through 3D and 2N in the mountain. :) 

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