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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tawi-Tawi Series : Hiking Bud Bongao

After covering the activities of the 44th Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi in Languyan(see post here), we traveled back to Bongao for some sightseeing. I was especially excited to hike Bud Bongao, a mountain which has long been on my bucket list. :)

Bud (mountain) Bongao is a small peak in the provincial capital with the same name, just 342 meter high with a stairs trail from jump-off to its summit. Sacred to locals, it is frequented by people practicing Islam who pray in tampats (burial shrines) along the trail.
At the top of Bud Bongao with my fellow bloggers, Marky/Nomadic Experiences, Ferdz/Ironwulf, Potpot/Travel Trilogy, Olan/The Travel Teller/ & Celine/Celineism (Photo from Ferdz Decena)
When we got to the jump-off at past 8:00 AM, the sun was high up and the humidity was uncomfortable. I don't mind. I was just excited to finally set foot here. :) (Tip : Since you'll be passing some open trails, it's  ideal to hike early in the morning to avoid the heat. Trail opens at 6:00 AM.) 

The tasking concrete stairs trail is built in the middle of a forest, making it doable for those without hiking experience and even more manageable for those who come just to pray. I prefer natural trails but if it will benefit more people and get them closer to nature, then I'm all for it. 

Halfway through, we encountered lots of monkeys that gladly took the bananas visitors threw at them. I was initially freaked out at the sight of monkeys everywhere but when I saw a mother monkey carrying its baby, I was smitten, it's so cute! :) 

The hike up normally takes 1-2 hours depending on your pace.  As this is my first time here, I took my sweet time, taking in the scenery of a forest filled with tall trees, the sound of birds and monkeys. 

There are two viewing decks before the summit and on the peak itself. Both offer breathtaking views of Celebes sea. You'll also spot the airport runway in Sanga-Sanga and the islands of Simunul and Sibutu. 

I had a sunburn from island hopping the day before. Thankfully, the summit has a nice, covered sitting area, very ideal for those who want to take a long break and enjoy the view and fresh air. (Tip : There are no stores here so better bring your own water and snacks.  Before reaching the summit, we saw a vendor selling cold drinks but I'm not sure if he's here everyday)
our group at the summit of Bud Bongao (Photo from Al Dam of Tausug Traveler)
After our hike, still sweaty and all, we rushed back to town  for lunch at the affable mayor Jimuel Que's residence. Incidentally, it's his dad's death anniversary and their home is open for everyone needing a good meal. Hehe! I stuffed myself with fried chicken and despite the heat, I still drank native coffee after. Their coffee's really good! don't miss it when in Tawi-Tawi.  Aside from lunch, we also joined a quick media interview with him, DOT ARMM Secretary Ayesha Dilangalen, Bongao Tourism Officer Kinlene Sabaani, our last activity in the province.  You can read about it in this article by Ace Perez of Sun Star Davao | Bongao Lures Tourists.

How to get to Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi 
From Manila, take a plane to Zamboanga City. From Zamboanga city, you can either *fly to Bongao or ride a boat  via Aleson Shipping Lines
Aleson Shipping Lines schedule (Note : Schedules may change. Please contact them directly on the numbers provided below to confirm the schedule.)  
Zamboanga to Bongao - 6:00 PM, Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays
Bongao to Zamboanga - 6:00 PM every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Zamboanga Ticketing Office +63(62) 992-5507, 992-6410, 992-4585 

*Cebu Pacific flies from Zamboanga to Bongao every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

From Bongao town proper, take a tricycle to the jump-off. It'll take about 30-40 minutes up. Not sure about the fare since we took a private van going here. To give you an idea, the tricycle fare from the town proper to sunset boulevard in Sanga-Sanga, which is near Bud Bongao is 150 Pesos/tricycle.  You may have to pay a bit more.

Other info :
- The park is open from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
- Smoking is not allowed
Entrance fees :
10 Pesos for locals
5 Pesos for 7 yrs old to 18 yrs old
20 Pesos for visitors from outside of Bongao
- the trail is straightforward and there is no need to hire a guide
- there's an ambulant vendor selling cold bottled drinks near the peak but I recommend bringing your own water to reduce plastic waste :)

Where to Stay in Bongao
We stayed at Rachel's place near the town proper. 
Rachel's Place Hotel & Restaurant
Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Contact Number : +63 (068)268-1248

Facebook Page : Rachel's Place Tawi-Tawi
Room Rates : 1, 200 Pesos for a matrimonial room to 3000 Pesos for a family room (as of September 2017)

To travel  to Tawi-Tawi safely, please get in touch with the following :
Provincial Tourism Office of Tawi-Tawi
Mr. Mobin Gampal (PTO Officer)
Contact number: +63 977 230 9061
Email Address: pto_tawitawi@yahoo.com
Facebook Page : PTO Tawi-Tawi (first contact)
Facebook Page : Department of Tourism - ARMM 

Travel Guides : 
Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide by Travel Up | Cebu Pacific Air City Guide, Tawi-Tawi

NOTE : This trip was made possible by Department of Tourism - ARMM. Last September, I traveled with fellow bloggers and members of the media from Mindanao to cover the 44th Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi, the province's founding anniversary. A DIY (Do It Yourself) trip to Tawi-Tawi is possible, just get in touch with the provincial tourism office of Tawi-Tawi on the contact details provided above. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Adventure Farm at Timberland Heights

Living in Metro Manila, one can easily travel to Rizal for a quick outdoor adventure. About an hour from Quezon City (depending on traffic), the nearby province offers biking, running and hiking trails that can be enjoyed by people of varying fitness levels. 

Read : Travel Up | 5 Places to Mountain Bike near Manila 

An addition to its outdoor playgrounds is Adventure Farm, an education farm concept that provides visitors a preview of farm life while learning about plants and raising animals. Though the layout is designed for kids, adults looking for a fun and easy time are welcome too!

Check out our hike at  Mt. Lubog, Rizal here.

Adventure Farm opened in 2014 and is a project of Filinvest Land Inc., one of the leading real estate developers in the country and the same group behind Timberland Heights subdivision, where the farm is.  

On an overnight camp with my fellow bloggers, we tried its latest attraction, the Adventure Playground, a 1.25 KM natural trail lined with obstacles. I've been hustling weeks before so on the day of the camp, all I wanted to do was pick some vegetables at the farm and sip cold lemongrass (the welcome drink) all day, but I've already committed to joining the challenge against Team Timberland. Years of playing in the football varsity has trained me to go on auto pilot and show up where I need to be. So there I stood at the starting line with my friends, dressed in all black, psyching myself to embrace the thrill of running outdoors and getting myself dirty. 
One of the obstacles along the trail. Photo from Dennis Murillo 
Fortunately, the obstacle course was much more fun than I expected. I've been watching too much American Ninja Warrior (check out an exciting clip here if you're not familiar with the show) that I somehow convinced myself that the challenge would be just as hard. Silly thoughts

While it was not as easy as a walk in the park, it gave us a good sweat. The kind of sweat that makes you happy and hungry after. :P (Tip : If trying this out, wear closed shoes with a good traction as the trail can get really muddy and slippery). 

My favorite part of course was crawling in the mud. Being short, challenges where I have to kneel to the ground  are easy for me. Parang normal na lakad lang, haha! Add my predilection to mud and there I was, having the time of my life. Background : The movie, Ghost has permanently romanticized touching mud for me. (Here's the clip I'm talking about. :P It's got a steamy scene so you'll probably have to log in on your YouTube account to verify you're above 18 so you can watch it ;))
A section of the Adventure Playground. Photo by Dennis Murillo.
Team Timberland got to the finish line first but we really enjoyed the obstacle course that we also felt like we won, ending our quest with loud cheers and some weird dancing. 

If you fancy a quick workout with your friends, Adventure Playground also accepts walk-ins with a minimum of 5 PAX from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but  I still recommend getting in touch in advance as there might be bigger groups coming in (contact details below). 

After cleaning up, we set our camp at a hilltop overlooking La Mesa Dam and the rest of the city. When darkness set in and the light from the infrastructures came on, everything in the distance sparkled, giving us a different perspective of the city. 

There's a decent bathroom and shower room facilities just a few feet from our campsite, making it more comfortable, especially for those who don't want to rough it out too much.   While I'm used to doing my thing outdoors, having clean facilities nearby is nicer and eases my paranoia from being attacked by an animal while sitting on the grass. :P

Aside from the Adventure Playground, there's plenty of other things to do out here. The farm is marketed for kids but adults who are interested in plants and animals can also enjoy. I advise you to get a a guided farm tour (150 Pesos/head) so you can get more information on how they're running the place.

Those looking for a venue to hold pictorials and prenups are also encouraged to visit. For rates, see contact details provided below.

Here's an infographic of what you can see at Adventure Farm. 
Infographic provided by Adventure Farm
Other activities : 
- chicken feeding
- fish feeding
- city viewing at Tree Troop
- relax at Hilltop Haven
- vegetable picking (pay for what you get later)
- birdwatching (binocular rental at 100 Pesos/piece, can be shared)
- fishing (rod rental at 100 Pesos/hour, can also be shared within the group)
- waterfalls trekking (150 Pesos/head, minimum of 5 in a group. 50% downpayment must be paid in advance 7 days prior to desired schedule, the remaining half to be paid at the farm)
- camping (advance reservation is required. Rate : 600 Pesos/head. Tent rental with a capacity of 2 persons is at 500 Pesos)
- biking (bike rental is at 100 Pesos/head per hour inclusive of safety gear, with an additional 50 Pesos for the succeeding hour)

Potted Herbs are sold at the shop for 50 Pesos/pot. Herbs like lavander, stevia, peppermint, aloe vera and more are available. They also have native tree seedlings at 150 Pesos/regular seedling. 

With its proximity from Manila, activities available and reasonable rates, Adventure Farm is a good option for those who are looking for a light outdoor adventure. 

Adventure Farm

Timberland Heights, San Mateo Rizal
Facebook Page : @AdventureFarmPH
Rates (in Philippine Pesos) :
Entrance Fee - 50 Pesos 
Guided Tour - 150 Pesos/head

For booking inquiries, please get in touch with Adventure Farm directly. 
Call + 63(02)571-9116
Email : adventurefarmtimberlandheights@gmail.com
Location Map

NOTE :  This trip was a collaboration with Adventure Farm. Thanks to Jon Tablante and to the rest of team Timberland! :)

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