MT. PULAG: THE FIRST HIKE AFTER TWO YEARS OF ISOLATION

Hooh! Finally! Yes, just like what the title said, after two long years of isolation brought by travel restrictions due to Covid 19. I finally got to wear my hiking attire and carry my travel gears again. As the restriction eases in my hometown Benguet, I got an invitation from my long time friends and hike partners, Team Ladaw to go on a weekend overnight hike to Mt. Pulag.

Mt. Pulag, branded as The Playground of the Gods has an elevation of 2,926 masl and tagged as the third highest mountain in the Philippines.  The mountain maintains its long reputation as one of the most captivating summit to hike with its stunning sea of clouds, captivating sunrise and mesmerizing landscape as you hike. A lot of hikers I met surely puts Mt. Pulag as their top favorite mountain they set foot on.  It is also every hiker’s bucketlist and on their return list if they get the chance.

The Journey: How To Get There

There are several trails to get to Mt. Pulag with different jump offs but the two most popular are the Akiki Trail and Ambangeg Trail. Akiki is the challenging longer trail that can take three days, while the latter is the easiest one which can be done within a day or overnight.

Since we have been isolated for a long time and none of us have any training prior to the hike we opted to take the Ambangeg Trail. To save ourselves with any hassle we also choose to just go for joiners event with Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail on Facebook.

We left La Trinidad, Benguet at 8 am in the morning since there was no traffic we drove smoothly until we reached Amboklao Dam in Bokod at around 9:30 am. We took a break to enjoy the view of the dam and also for toilet break. (P.s. You can do boating activity in Ambokalo dam, if you have time to spare.)

We continued to drive until we reached Ambangeg Daclan to have our medical check up. Since 2015, the DENR requires all hikers to Mt. Pulag to secure medical certificate stating they are fit to hike. You can get your medical certificate to any clinic and hospital of your choice but as for us we didn’t have the time to acquire one so we got it from a local clinic, JB Medical Clinic. The consultation and certificate cost Php 130.

We carried on our journey to Mt. Pulag National Park Protected Area Office in which our medical certificates, vaccination cards and valid IDs are collected. We were also asked to watched a 15-minute video about the Dos and Don’ts  when hiking in Mt. Pulag as part of our orientation. After that, we were off to Ranger Station also know as Camp 1 which serves as our jump off point.

Camp 1 (Jump Off)

The Ranger Station is a residential area and can be reached thru any mode of transportation. It is located around 2,400 masl so YES, this hike is pretty chill. Some hikers in Camp 1 can opt to set up a tent or get accommodation in homestays. Since it is a community area you can spot some sari sari stores to eat and hang out with other hikers. Most hikers spend the night here before going up the summit at around 1 am just to be on time for the sunrise.

As for our team, we opted to camp out in Camp 2 which is around two hours hike up from Camp 1. We honestly find Camp 1 a bit too chill for our liking and crowded with other hikers so we want to space out plus we can have less hectic call time the next morning.

Camp 2

Camp 2 is the midpoint from Camp 1 to the summit. Hikers usually set up their tents here. It has toilet although don’t expect too much of it and a cabin built for those who don’t have tent. I personally find the hike from Camp 1 to Camp 2 somewhat the most difficult part of this hike especially when you start in the middle of the day since the sun will be quite harsh. It is mostly ascending but not assault so for us who haven’t exercise for a while it is quite a struggle. The view is nice. Most of the trail is shaded on the latter part of the hike and there’s a small mossy forest  in between. The pathways are well made and safe.

Tower Site

If you stay at Camp 2 the call time for the sunrise in the summit is usually 3 am. However, when we spoke to locals and our guide. They unanimously advise us to witness the sunrise in Tower Site for a sure view of the sea of clouds.  The hike going up to the Tower Site only takes 30 minutes so it means more time to sleep for us. Our call time is 4:30 am and going there is not difficult at all.  We’re glad we took their advice since the view of the sunrise above the sea of clouds didn’t disappoint.

Mt. Pulag Summit

After chasing the sunrise in Tower Site, we proceeded straight up to the Summit. The hike ascending to the peak can take 2 hours. It is easy and can be accomplished even just by a newbie hiker. It is open with no shades so just be wary of the harsh sun when you end up hiking until the mid day. The pathways are developed and very safe with no falling rocks, loose soil and assault areas. The views along the way are stunning. Out team really took the time to take a pause, appreciate and took photos of the landscape. When we reached the summit, we were greeted with cotton candy clouds above us, a bit of sea of clouds and other beautiful Benguet mountains. Dwarf bamboos are also present on the peak.

My Thoughts

Obviously, My Pulag is a must try experience. Although, some of my friends who have been there told me that I might not see the most stunning view of the mountain on my first hike because it took them numerous attempts before they could see the best view. I ended this laidback hike really contented with the scenery I witnessed.  I also appreciate our guide for setting our expectations straight and giving us tips to make the most out of our first hike. For someone whose been hiking for years the level of difficulty for me is 3 out of 10 and that contributed to the development of the national park because of the long standing popularity of the mountain.

Expenses

Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail Joiners Event: Php 3,100

Package Inclusions:

> Transportation (Baguio-Mt. Pulag Vice versa)

>  Park Fees (Entrance Fee, Guide Fee, Cultural and Camping Fee)

> 3 Meals (Dinner, Breakfast and Lunch)

> Coordinator’s Fee

> Homestay/ Tent

Porter Fee: Php 1,750

Shout out to Team Ladaw and Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail for making this post possible.

BAKUN TRIO: THE THREE GEMS OF BAKUN, BENGUET PHILIPPINES

DSC04800-01

Bakun is one of the thirteen municipalities of Benguet, Philippines, a mountainous and peaceful province in the north. I honestly can’t imagine how peaceful and clean this place is away from the noise and other pollution in the city. Bakun can be your perfect serene place for soul searching, reflection or simply a relaxation. Let me start when the tourism officer told us that the whole municipality has a cigarette and liquor ban. At first we thought it was because of the Holy Week holiday however she made it clear to us that it is a municipal ordinance and it is strictly implemented. Therefore don’t expect anyone loitering the streets at night being drunk and causing trouble. Next, you will be amazed how clean this place is not only from the fresh air you get but also from their waste management system. They have an organized waste segregation that is followed by the residents and should be complied by the visitors. Another fact, I haven’t seen any stray dogs that wander around the streets. Dog owners are responsible enough to tie their dogs. Lastly, the place shuts down at 8 p.m. Literally, you can’t do anything here after 8 p.m as all stores, markets and eateries close in the center. Since there’s liquor ban don’t be stupid enough to wander around looking for bars. I can say staying here detoxes and cleanses our body and mind from the harsh substances and stress we have in the city.

DSC04735-01

Bakun Trio is composed of three mountains, Mt. Lubo, Mt. Kabunian and Mt. Tenglawan. They are near to each other so it makes it easy to climb the 3 mountains one at a time in just 3 days. Although most hikers usually take day hikes to each mountain and sleep in the municipal hall in Poblacion at night, others camp in the mountain to witness the sunrise or take traverse route from Sinacbat- Mt. Tenglawan- Mt. Kabunian- Poblacion. In our case we started to hike Mt. Lubo from Sitio Dada then traverse route to Poblacion. I must say that these mountains are major climbs you need to be physically fit and mentally ready for the hike. Expect a steep, narrow with loose soil path even cliff going to the summit. I must say Mt. Kanubian and Mt. Tenglawan are for professional hikers or mountaineers. Bakun Trio is still a rising star when it comes to popularity as compared to Mt. Pulag in Kabayan, and Mt. Ulap and Mt. Ugo in Itogon. There are not many travel and tour groups that organize event in this place. However I am lucky enough to cross path with Team Ladaw, a travel group in facebook founded by young travel enthusiasts. They invite people to join them on their journey as they hike mountains, dip in waterfalls and swim on beaches. For more inquiries visit their facebook page on this link.

HOW TO GET TO BAKUN

received_853701131507004
The Team! Photo Credit to Mr. Abel Sanyver

  1. By bus
  • Daily bus trip to Bakun comes from Caltex Gas Station Km. 5 La Trinidad, Benguet from 6;30 am-7:00 am via Bakun Cooperative Bus. It will take you to barangay Poblacion, the center of Bakun.
  • Bus fare: Php 180
  • Estimated travel time: 6 hours
  1. Private car or rented jeepney or van
  • For big groups I suggest to take rented van or jeepney or might as well your own car. It is more convenient and saves time.
  • Rented jeepney from Bakun that will pick you up in Baguio costs Php 12,000 round trip. (For inquiries contact this number 0912 807 0974)

WHERE TO STAY

DSC04839-01
Overnight Camping at Mt. Kabunian

There are no other accommodations in Bakun except the municipal hall in Poblacion or barangay hall in Sinacbat. Usually hikers go on a day hike and sleep in the municipal hall at night. Others camp in the mountain and leave their other stuff there, just like what we did.

Accommodation Rate: Php 200/ person (with gas stove and blanket)

Php 80/ person (without gas stove and blanket)

Baggage Fee:               Php 50/ person (for overnight hike)

 

For more inquiries contact their Tourism Officer Ms. Nenita 0918 352 3722

 

BAKUN TRIO JOURNEY

received_853707958172988
Photo credit to Mr. Abel Sanyver

We left Baguio City at 1 a.m took the Halsema Highway passing through La Trinidad, Atok and  Buguias  route. The travel took 5 hours with the rough, bumpy, curvy and foggy road. I must warn you, the ride won’t be easy. We arrived in Sitio Dada, Bakun before 6 a.m. ate breakfast and start to hike at around 8 a.m.

 

  1. MT. LUBO

DSC04754-01

As an amateur hiker this is the easiest mountain to hike among the three. We started to ascend from Sitio Dada with a decent pathway. However when we went down the traverse route that will take us to Poblacion, it was very steep with slippery loose soil and dried leaves that fell down from forest trees. I admit I slipped a hundred times so a good hiking shoes and trail stick are recommended. The hike to the summit took us 1 hour 30 minutes while the descending hike took us 2 hours.

 

Registration and Environmental Fee: Php 100

Guide Fee:

  • Traverse: Php 800/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Back Trail: Php 600/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)

2. MT. KABUNIAN

DSC04846-01

In one of native Cordilleran dialect Kabunian means God. This mountain is believed to be where their God is staying. I actually agree with it since judging how difficult the path is. It gives an impression that Kabunian doesn’t want to be bothered so he stays in a very difficult to reach place. I would describe this as the most “buwis buhay” (near death) and difficult path I ever took among all of my hiking experience so far. Aside from the steep or assault loose soil path, what makes my knees shake are the cliffs. One mistake and you are done. For those who are scared of heights like me better bag lots of courage with you. I’m telling you it won’t be easy. I admit I almost cried in the middle of the hike since it is already dark and we haven’t reached the camp site yet and seeing how far we need to hike more and the number of cliff and assault we need to pass through. The hike to the campsite is approximately 3 ½ hours, then from the campsite to the summit is 10-15 minutes and the descending hike took around 3 hours.

IMG_0407-01
The steep path to Mt. Kabunian! Photo credit to Team Ladaw

Registration Fee and Environmental Fee: Php 100

Guide Fee:

  • Day Hike: Php 1000/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Overnight: Php 1,300/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Note: additional of 100 Php 100/ hour after 12 noon the next day for overnight hike

received_10211668194755517
The narrowest trail I ever had! Photo credit to Team Ladaw3

3. MT. TENGLAWANDSC04960-01

If Mt. Lubo is the easiest, Mt. Kabunian is the most difficult then Mt. Tenglawan is the longest hike. Approximately 7 hours hike one way, with ascending and descending path. Gladly unlike Mt. Kabunian it doesn’t have cliff however most of the hike will be a battle between assault loose gravel and soil. Most day hikers start the trail as early as 4 am to get to the summit at 10 am or 11 am. As for my team we start to hike at 2:30 pm and arrived at the camping site at 9:30 p.m. It was very creepy to hike in a steep forest in the dark. The campsite has an improvised toilet for your call of nature. From the campsite it takes 30 minutes hike to the summit. The summit is beautiful at sunrise, mostly composed of mountain views however if you are looking for sea of clouds don’t expect it from here.

DSC04868-01
6:30 am sunrise of Mt. Tenglawan!

Registration and Environmental Fee: Php 100

Guide Fee:

  • Day hike: Php 1,300 / 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Overnight: Php 1,500/ 6 pax (if more than 6 additional Php 100/ person, maximum of 8 pax)
  • Overtime fee after 12 noon the next day for overnight hike additional Php100/ hour/ guide

For more inquiries contact their Tourism Officer Ms. Nenita at 0918 352 3722

DSC04922-01

This post is made possible by Team Ladaw, shout out to the amazing team for organizing this event. For more inquiries about their upcoming events visit their facebook page on the link below or contact them at 0919 311 3226 and 0956 657 5887

https://www.facebook.com/teamladaw/