Hiking Mt. Amuyao, Mountain Province

Located in the cold region of the Cordilleras, up northern Philippines, where striking views of rice and vegetable terraces are abundant is Mt. Amuyao. At a height of 2,702 MASL, it is the country's 10th highest peak.  
At the summit of Mt. Amuyao (photo by Roland Wang)
 However, it's not the altitude that drew me and several friends to this mountain but the prospect of witnessing its sheer beauty and most importantly, spend time with good old hiking buddies, one, was temporarily leaving the country to chase the greener pastures in the Middle East. 

We left Manila by taking the 8:30 PM Cable Tours bus that took us directly to Bontoc after 13 slow hours on the road. 
From Manila, the bus took a 15-minute stop-over at Mt. Polis. Here you can buy snacks and fresh produce at low prices! :)
In Bontoc, we were joined by another friend, Roland, a resident of Bontoc. After taking an early lunch, we took the 1:00 PM jeepney to Barlig. It was a two hour ride, passing over a mix of rough and smooth roads  which made sleeping a little challenging. 

By 3:00 PM, we reached the town of Barlig.  As August 9 was a public holiday, there was no one at the office. The locals we asked refused to accept our payment for the registration as they could not issue an official receipt (mabuhay kayo sa inyong pagiging matapat!) and was told to just list our names at the logbook at the Barlig Municipal Police Station. Since we were the last group to arrive that day, there were no available guides either.
 Barlig Police Station  (the building in blue and white).
3 of our friends had hiked the mountain before and was confident we could reach the summit that day safely so we decided to get on with the ascent by 4:00 PM. Assisted by the friendly villagers, we reached the main trail located at 1,300-1400 MASL. In less than an hour, the trail started slinking upwards. It was quite steep! The oxygen level was quite thin and for us who live in the lowlands, the  altitude change proved to be quite challenging. 

I was more than happy I had minimal load on my back that day. I limited my hydration supply to 2.5 Liters, (1.5 of which was Powerade)and packed some hydrites to avoid dehydration. Even food we carried were minimal, just pita bread, pork and beans for the meals and some chocolates and Clorets as trail food. The heaviest part of my load were  the extra jacket, malong and clothes for protection against the cold.
Sunset at the trail. We were still more than an hour away from the summit at this point
Despite the minimal load and the non-technical trail, since it's like hiking a flight of natural stairs all the way to the summit, it wasn't as easy as what I read about. What kept me entertained all throughout the trail were the nice trees along the way and the view of the sunset with clouds hovering mountain peaks. 

By 8:00 PM,  after four hours of trying to catch our breath, clinging over rocks and tree branches,  we finally reached the summit of Mt. Amuyao where  relay stations of local tv networks are located. The bunker where we planned to spend the night was packed with people so we went outside, turned off our headlamps and changed into dryer clothes in the dark. 

Since we were all cold and tired, we didn't get to appreciate the view at the summit until the next morning. We were up by 1:30 AM hoping to start early for a traverse to Batad in Ifugao but it was raining so hard, we knew we couldn't make it back  and fulfill our ambitious plan to catch an afternoon bus back to Manila. 

The traverse trail to Batad, according to those who have seen it is breathtaking. It passes around several rice terraces and is reputed as one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country. Worthy to mention is that the cluster of rice terraces in Batad, where the hike terminates, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Enticing as the trail was and fully aware that it wasn't going to be easy, we decided to set the traverse another time as it was vital for some of us to board a bus back to Manila that same day. 

When the rain finally stopped, it was almost 6:00 AM. Thankfully, sun came out, affording us with an awesome view at the summit with fluffy clouds floating above mountain peaks. Despite the temperature drop which was shocking to us lowlanders, we couldn't control the childlike smiles on our faces with all the beauty that surrounded us.

We made it back down to Barlig after another four hours using the same route we came up, catching the 11:00 AM jeepney to Bontoc. There, we enjoyed generous serving size of meals  and cups of coffee at Goldfish cafe, a vibrant new cafe with orange decors, a few blocks from the Cable Tours office. 

Fresh and clean after our overnight climb! Photo taken at Goldfish Cafe. 
Shout out to my loveable BFFEEE's Jules, Mors, Tristan and friends Kirk and Roland. Thanks for this wonderful adventure. Til the next one! :) 

Hiking Notes:  
Bus from Manila to Bontoc (via Cable tours) - departs at 8:30 PM from their terminal along E. Rod. Fare is 650 Pesos, one way (Travel time : 12-14 hours). Reserve your seats by contacting +63 9185216790. They don't sell tickets in advance. Just reserve your seat. Map to bus terminal here.  Just a heads up that Cable Tours bus is a little clunky. Some hikers opt to take a bus from Manila to Banaue, then from Banaue, hire or take a public jeep to Barlig. 
From Bontoc, there's an 11:00 AM bus and 1:30 PM jeep to Barlig (80 Pesos). (Travel time : 2 hours)
At Barlig, register at the police station and pay the applicable fees:
Registration fee - 50 Pesos
Guide Fee:
1 Guide per 5 climbers
Day hike = 1,000
Overnight = 1,500/day

Traverse = 1,500/day
Bus from Bontoc to Manila is via Cable Tours - trip is at 3:00 PM (Travel Time : 12 hours, Fare : 650 Pesos/head)
Contacts: (If doing the traverse to Batad)
Jane Buyao, chairperson of the Banaue Tourism Council at +63 919 614 22 66 (mobile)
Juliet Mateo, information officer, at (+63 74)38 64 010 (landline).

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