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Mountains have always been a significant feature in the development of human history. History, economics, and even language were affected by these towering landmasses, for better or for worse.

But aside from human affairs, mountains also played significant roles in the most pivotal moments in the Bible.

Here are seven mountains mentioned in the Bible.
1. Mt. Ararat

Elevation: 5137 MASL
Days to Summit: 4-5 days
Located at the extreme eastern part of Turkey.
Biblical Significance: Mt. Ararat or Agri Dagi is believed to be the place in which Noah’s Ark landed. Upon landing atop Mt. Ararat, God sent a rainbow as a promise not to destroy humanity again with flood.
2. Mt. Moriah (Mt. Gerizim)

Elevation: 881 MASL
Day/s to Summit: 1 day
Located at the West Bank, Israel.

Biblical Significance: For the Samaritans, Mt. Gerizim is considered a holy place chosen by Yahweh instead of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Traditionally, Samaritans believed that Mt. Gerizim is where the Divine decree from Yahweh was given.

On its summit, you can also find the rock which is believed to be the spot where Abraham tried to sacrifice his son Isaac.
3.  Mt. Sinai



Elevation: 2,285 MASL
Day/s to Summit: 1 day, 3-5 hour trek
Located at the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

Biblical Significance: The place where Moses secured The Ten Commandments after the people of Israel were delivered from Egypt. Mt. Sinai signifies the divination of mountains when Moses met God at the summit and be humbled again into ordinary person upon his descent.
4.     Mt. Pisgah/ Mt. Nebo

Elevation: 710 MASL
Day/s to Summit: 1 day
Located at western part of Jordan. Offers breath-taking view of the cities of Jericho and Jerusalem, and river Jordan.

Biblical Significance: After years of wandering through the desert, the Israelites had already faced so much suffering along with their leader, Moses. But with God’s Grace, Moses knew he reached the Promised Land when he finally saw Mt. Pisgah, known today as Mt. Nebo, in the distance. The people rejoiced as their long journey has concluded.

Mt. Pisgah/ Nebo symbolizes that God’s promises are never broken even if it takes a lifetime to come.
5.     Mt. Carmel

Elevation: 546 MASL
Day/s to Summit: 1 day, 3-5 hours. However, multiple trails are available for hikers which have different lengths.
Located at the Northernmost part of Israel.

Biblical Significance: It is said that this mountain is where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to prove that there is only one true God.

The story goes that King Ahab ordered the execution of the prophets of Israel and replaced them with Baal's. One man named Elijah came forward and challenged King Ahab. A curse was put in place that no rain shall fall until Elijah calls on to God for rain. After which, Elijah escaped to the desert where God provided him with food and water. Upon his return, he challenged the prophets of Baal to produce two jars to put their sacrifice, one for Elijah and the other for the prophets of Baal.

They prayed for a flame to come from heaven and burn their sacrifices. The prophets of Baal prayed to no avail. When Elijah prayed, a flame came and burn the ashes. The false prophets were then put under the sword and rain started to comeback.
6.Mt. Tabor

Elevation: 575 MASL
Day/s to Summit: 1 day, 3-4 hours. 
Located at Lower Galilee, Israel

Biblical Significance: Mt. Tabor, according to Christian tradition, is believed to be the place of Transfiguration of Jesus, an event in which Jesus shone with the glory of divinity and conversed with Moses and Elijah. Mt. Transfiguration, as Mt. Tabor known to some, bears witness to one of the most significant events in Christianity as the Transfiguration of Jesus symbolized the revelation of Jesus' glory to others with him and Heaven meeting Earth. 
7.Mt. Olives

Elevation: 800+ MASL
Day/s to summit: 1 -2 hours on foot
Located beside Jerusalem's Old City

Biblical Significance: Mt. Olives got its name from the abundance of olives that used to grow on its slope. The mountain was mentioned more than once both in the Old and New Testament. It was used by David as a refuge when his son Absalom rebelled against him. Solomon had also built idolatrous shrine in Mt. Olives for his numerous wives. 

This is also where Jesus wept while looking atop the city of Jerusalem, and prophesied the destruction of the Temple, the ruin of the city, and the "End of Times".

There we have it, the seven mountains mentioned in the Bible. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comment section. 

God must have loved mountains, He created so many of it. 

-Adrian Villaflor, March 2019

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Laguna is slowly becoming my favorite province so far. From mountaineering to chasing waterfalls and anything in between, Laguna never fails to deliver. But one thing I really love about this province is the numerous parks to visit for a quick day trip. One of them is the Cavinti Japanese Memorial Garden.


Lake Caliraya
BackgroundThe Japanese Memorial Garden is located in the town of Cavinti, Laguna, along the shore of Lake Caliraya. Once a sleepy rural town, Cavinti has now become one of the well-known travel destinations near Manila.

The garden was established in 1970's by the government in partnership with Japan to commemorate the fallen Japanese soldiers of World War II.

Myth Busted: It was rumored that the tomb of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, "The Tiger of Malaya", is within the Japanese Garden also. But after few researches, we found out that the infamous general was actually buried in Tokyo, Japan.

Historical Fact: Laguna bore witness in the twilight days of World War II. Mt. Kalisungan in Victoria, Laguna served as one of the last bastions of the Japanese guerillas.


Road going to Japanese Garden
How to go there1. Ride any bus going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna, regardless if coming from Cubao, Pasay or Alabang. Bus ride may take 3 - 4 hours one way.
2. Alight at the bus terminal and look for jeepneys going to Brgy. Lumot. Jeepney ride is about an hour long in a winding, beautiful mountain road. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Japanese Garden.
3. Alight at the garden entrance.


Japanese Memorial Garden entrance fee is 20 pesos per pax

The Japanese Memorial Garden has an entrance fee of 20.00 pesos per head. It was said that the money collected is not for profit but rather for the maintenance of the garden. The garden really reflects the Japanese attitude toward many things.


Yippeee!
Man-made structure gave way to nature, not the other way around, here in the Japanese Garden. The place is lusciously green during our visit despite the fact that the climate had been dry for quite some time. More new saplings were already planted along the pathways and other parts of the garden! It's like the Japanese has this craze in planting trees. 

Lots and lots of stairs


Aside from their love of nature, the stoicism in the garden's design was also evident. The memorial has minimal details, to give more emphasis on peace and meditation.



Just be sure to observe proper behavior when in the actual memorial stone for the fallen soldiers. NO EATING AND PLAYING also. Be reminded.


If visiting the garden, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing since there’ll be lots and lots of stairs and trails to climb.



There is also a small lagoon in the garden that gives a very japanesey-vibe in your visit.


You can have a little picnic in the grassland at the very summit of the garden. Just make sure to bring all your trash with you after eating.

It took us almost three hours to explore the entirety of the garden. We spent the most of our time at the grassy “peak” of the garden, just loitering under one of the many trees planted there. Here, you can enjoy the sound of nature and watch the slow-creeping clouds amidst the blue sky.



It was already 3:00 in the afternoon when we decided to leave the garden. We texted the trike driver to pick us up and he arrived 40 minutes later. We told our driver if we can have a few photoshoots at the roadside looking at Lake Caliraya. He agreed happily and volunteered to be our photographer.


Things to Remember
1. There are only few Jeepneys plying the route of Sta. Cruz – Lumot and vice versa. Going there via jeepney will be time consuming while going back from the Japanese Garden quite stressful. Alternatively, you can hire a trike to bring and fetch you at the Japanese Garden. Rate is 500 pesos (back and forth), relatively cheap since the ride is almost an hour.
2. Observe proper decorum while inside the garden. The place is serene, clean and beautiful. Let’s keep it that way.
3. As of the writing of this blog post, the comfort rooms are not operational. This may cause a bit of a problem especially for our women.
4. There are stores inside the garden where you can buy food and snacks.
5. You can go sightseeing in Lake Caliraya if you ride a trike. Just ask the trike driver that you want to see Lake Caliraya.
Sidetrips
1. Pagsanjan Falls
2. Bumbungan Eco Park
3. Pueblo El Salvador Nature Park
4. Caliraya Resort 

The tricycle managed its way down the winding mountain road with the beautiful sceneries on our right side. We even saw the eagle-shaped town of Paete below. After few more minutes, the green forest gave way to houses and eventually establishments. Ahh, we’re back to reality.

Town of Paete, Laguna below
I wonder how a town became so blessed with natural resources and history as we passed by the Arco Real of Pagsanjan. Then I think about my hometown, Bacoor, Cavite. Is there a chance for Bacoor to be like Cavinti, or Pagsanjan, Laguna? Probably not. Maybe not in our lifetime but in the future it could be. I saw the town of Cavinti and Pagsanjan holding on to its natural beauty and historic roots while holding at bay the trudging march of city-life.

After the experience, I know this will not be the last time I’ll visit this place.

You can never tell that you already saw all the ideal places to live in if you haven't visited a quaint and simple town before.

-Adrian Villaflor, 2019

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Just when you thought you had enough of Cordillera, another majestic destination will catch your attention and suck you right back in.

If we talk about Mt. Pulag National Park, the obvious mountain that pops to everyone's mind is Mt. Pulag. Well, what if I tell you that there are other mountains within the conservation area that you can climb?

Let me introduce you to Mt. Timbac and Mt. Tabayoc.

The two mountains are usually eclipsed by the more popular Mt. Pulag, but do not commit the same mistakes of others who chose to pass up these two mountains.

Here is a complete Travel guide for your Timbac-Tabayoc climb.

Fast FactsMt. Timbac

Height? 2717 MASL according to Pinoymountaineer.com, 3rd highest in island of Luzon, 9th in the entire Philippines
Trail Difficulty? 2/9
Jump-off? KM 55, Atok, Benguet
Roped Segment? None
Guide? None

Mt. Tabayoc

Height? 2842 MASL according to Pinoymountaineer.com, 2nd highest in island of Luzon, 7th in the entire Philippines
Trail Difficulty? 6/9, Major
Jump-off? Brgy. Ballay, Kabayan Benguet
Guide? Available and required

Beginner friendly? Beginners with decent physical condition
How to go there
Via Public Transportation

How to go to Mt. Timbac

1. First, go to Baguio. then from Baguio City, ride a taxi or a cab to Slaughterhouse Terminal.
2. Ride a bus going to Sagada. Tell the conductor to drop you off at KM 55 Marker
3. From the KM 55 Marker, you'll have walk along a concrete road for 30 - 40 minutes before you reach foot of the mountain.

From Mt. Timbac to Mt. Tabayoc

After descending Mt. Timbac, head directly to the main highway and wait for a bus heading to Kabayan. Upon riding the bus, tell the conductor to drop you off Ballay, Kabayan.

Important Note: Public transportation is not around the clock. The last van and bus leave the Slaughterhouse Terminal before lunch. It'll be much more practical to charter a van or join a group of other like-minded individuals so you'll save more money.
Tale of the TrailThe climbed happened last January 26-27, organized by Sir Mac Vallano of Be One with Kalikasan Travel Group. There are 25 participants, coming from different walks of life.

Ollie, Anne, Wheng, Ives, Camille, Kenji, Jeron, Lit Lit, Mitch, Xy, Alexis, The Blogger, Ry, Ian, Fritz, Ramlie, Sir Mac, Echo, Vic, Nellie, Yuri (the small girl), Jay-Ar, Nellie, Bhing, Jason,  and our local driver
The adventure starts at the butt-clenching roads of Cordillera. Brace yourself from the countless hairpin turns and precarious roads before even reaching your destination.


The sun was already rising when we finally reached Atok, Benguet. The scene on the road was just mesmerising but at the same time vertigo-inducing especially when you realized how fast you're going, on a twisting road without any concrete barriers. (Yikes!) But as the saying goes, the most beautiful views are always hidden away in difficult places.

The road just keeps going higher and higher and a bit more dangerous as the van tries to take us to the jump-off of Mt. Timbak. However, we were not very fortunate since the van we were riding stopped midway on a steep slope so we have no choice but to continue on foot.

Concrete road leading to Mt. Timbac JOP
Mt. Timbac trail
Upon reaching reaching the jump-off of Mt. Timbak, you'll notice a small community. Much of their livelihood are dependent to the produce growing on the land terraces carved out of the slopes of Mt. Timbak. Remember this detail when you're climbing since you'll pass by many plant lots on the way up, so make sure to avoid trampling on them.

The summit
From the JOP, the summit is just 15-minutes away, depending on your pace. The path is well established, so there's no chance of getting lost here.

When we finally reached the summit, it was just breathtaking!


The summit is marked with three small crosses and an altar. Here, you'll have a vantage point of the majestic rice terraces of Benguet (not to be confused with the one found in Ifugao Province).

 A short walk from the summit, you can reach another viewpoint facing east. Personally, I found this vantage point more spectacular than the actual summit.

Mt. Tabayoc on the left, Mt. Pulag on the right
From this side, you can see the distant Mt. Pulag and Mt. Tabayoc, both shrouded in thick morning fog. The sun rays were hot but the cold breeze touching our bodies kept us comfortable as we stayed and watch the beauty of Cordillera unfolded in front of our eyes. 

The sun was almost at its peak when we decided to descent. The trek down was so much easier. We made our way back to the van in less than fifteen minutes. 


From Mt. Timbac, the JOP of Mt. Tabayoc is still a long way off; about a 2-hour van ride. I grabbed this opportunity to sleep once more since I was not able to fully rest the night before.

You'll know that you are nearing your destination if you notice the road becoming steeper and steeper. And guess what? There are no protective barriers on either of the side of the road! Truly you can say that the adventure really do starts at the ride. Hahaha!

Anyway, the road eventually became flatter and a bit downhill. That's the time where you will see the Lake Tabeo and the campsite.


Campsite at Lake Tabeo
You'll alight exactly at the campsite. If only I knew sooner, I would have brought more items (mostly comfort things) than I did.

After pitching tents and establishing our camp, we finally brought out something that we had been all waiting for. The lechon! Kudos to Sir Mac Vallano and the Be One with Kalikasan Team, they have a habit of bringing lechon in their organized climb. Hahahaha!

Upon arrival, you have two choices: either you stay at the camp for rest, or explore the mystic lakes of Kabayan, Benguet. We were late so we no longer had the luxury of time to explore all of them. Half of us opted to visit Lake Ambulalacao while the rest stayed to prepare dinner.


Since we arrived at the campsite quite late, we decided to visit only one lake; Lake Ambulalacao. From the campsite, you'll have to ride a chartered monster jeep. Travel time is around 15 minutes where you can choose to ride atop of the jeep. The road was steep and curving so make sure to hold on tight.
Road leading to Lake Ambulalacao
Upon alighting the jeepney, you'll have to ascent an established path through a mossy forest. The trek is short, just under 15 minutes. After that you'll have to descent for another 5 minutes or so before reaching the shores of Lake Ambulalacao

Birdbox Feels
The weather had not been so kind to us. The lake was shrouded in mist, making it look like a scene from the film "Birdbox". Swimming in the lake is prohibited due to the fact that the soil surrounding and under it had a consistency of a quicksand making it dangerous for any swimmers.

We stayed on the lakeside for few more minutes before we head back to the camp.

A bountiful dinner follows and socials until 10PM.  Take note that there is a policy that all camp activities must cease by 10 PM.
Next Day: Mt. Tabayoc
Cold morning on Lake Tabeo
The cold wind with water was punishing, damping the entire camp the whole night until daybreak. The team was supposed to assault Mt. Tabayoc at 4 AM but the cold was too much and everyone decided to just hunker down in our tents and wait for the sun.

The biting cold was all round us, making the threat of hypothermia all the more menacing. Sir Mac Vallano made a few rounds in the camp, telling everyone to move otherwise they may get hypothermia.

We lied down inside our tent, waiting for the sunrise. The sun rose, with all its majesty, at around 6 AM.

Preparing to climb
We immediately prepared for the summit assault as most of us were eager to move to fight away the cold. Only half of the team were up to the challenge that morning. After securing our tents, strapping our backpacks, then off we go to the unknown.


The first few minutes of the climb cuts through vegetable gardens. It'll take you about 15 - 20 minutes before you reach the primeval mossy forest of Mt. Tabayoc.

After traversing the flatland, brace yourself for a continuous assault through thick mossy forest. Pair of gloves will be useful since you'll have to hold on to branches to maintain your balance. Flat areas will be almost non-existent.

The only flat areas I can think of are the view deck, about 1.5 hour from the start of the climb, and the summit.

The trail of Mt. Tabayoc was known to be the "monkey trail" since you'll have to hold and hang on to the branches while managing your way through.


Watch out for thorny vines. The last thing you'll want is a spiked hand, eh? An hour and a half later, the team finally reached the view deck.

The view was covered by thick clouds so we made an extended stop to wait for it. But when you finally see it, whew. It was worth it! You can see Lake Tabeo and the community below. We can even see our tents by the lakeside.

After the stop, we soldiered to the summit. The mossy forest just became thicker and a bit more technical. You'll have to bend your body and crawl your way up to some parts of the trail. There are also some parts where the angle of incline is about 80 degrees. Add to that the damp and the mud, and you have a complete recipe for a difficult climb.

After almost two hours, we finally reached the summit at around 10AM.

The summiteers
The summit by itself does not offer any view whatsoever. In order to see anything, you'll have to climb a man-made platform with a guide.

Unfortunately, the platform during our climb was destroyed by a storm, months before, and the locals find it difficult to repair it. The platform was in great disrepair, so only two people can climb; you and the guide to take your photo. many of the steps were unstable so I was not too keen in staying atop the structure for more than a minute (thus my blurry summit photo).

Pardon my blurry shot
Since you'll have to do it one by one, the summit photoshoot can be quite boring, so make sure to find something to pass your time.

Good thing for us, Sir Ramlie brought a stove and coffee, and poof! Coffee time at the summit, yeah!

Sir Ramlie, the coffee guardian: Photo credit to Camille

While waiting, half of the summiteers decided to descent (me included) while the other half stayed for their summit photo. Many of us were eager to reach the campsite fast.

The trail of Mt. Tabayoc, unlike other popular mountains, were not trodden down and with lots of forked paths. It is easy to miss the right turn so be attentive to signs of foot traffic like disturbed foliage or shoe prints.

We finally reached the campsite just a few minutes after 12 noon. Thank God for the people we left behind at the campsite. They prepared a sumptuous lunch which I think is one of the best meals I had in a climb.

The second group finally reunited with the main group at around 1:30 PM. We dilly dallied at the campsite until 4:30 PM before we started our journey back to Manila.

As the van slowly picking up speed, I looked back on the mountains, the lakes and the people living on its slope. Everything seems so peaceful and timeless. Now I know why the mountains call on to the human spirit to return to nature.

My thoughts were cut-off by the sound of the engine , and on we went, back to the bustles and hustles of city life.

Don't go where most people tell you to go. Instead go to unknown places and invite them to come with you

-Adrian C. Villaflor, February 2019

Things to Remember1. Follow the LNT Principle. If you're not familiar with it, then do your research you big baby! No one should be allowed entry to any mountains if they don't know the LNT Principle.
2. Mt. Timbak is a minor climb but Mt. Tabayoc is a major one. Plan your climb accordingly.
3. The cold can be a major concern. If ever you feel you'll slip into hypothermia, its better to move and walk around instead of just hunkering inside your tent. Inform the people nearest to you in dire situation.
4. A pair of gloves is a must-have for this climb.
5. Arrive early in the campsite if you want to visit all the four mystic lakes of Kabayan, Benguet
6. You can bring a little bit more items for this climb since you'll not be carrying your backpack up the mountain. Campsite is just a walking distance from the parking lot.
7. Bring only what is necessary for the summit assault.

Gallery



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Chocolate Hills

A regular member of "Most Beautiful Places to Visit" in your elementary Araling Panlipunan book (HEKASI), I was always fascinated to visit this island. It took me almost two decades from the first time I saw Bohol on the pages of my book to actually visiting it myself.

Here is a complete guide and itinerary for Bohol Countryside Trip and a little bit of our story.

Background
Bohol is an island province located 640 KM south of Manila, in Central Visayas. The province only has one city which is Tagbilaran.

Bohol offers a glimpse of the entire Philippines, with its white sand beach, rolling landscapes, quaint little towns, churches, river cruises and hospitality of its inhabitants.

How to go to BoholFrom Manila, you have different choices of transportation going to Bohol. But the most convenient would be via plane.

There are daily plane trips going to Bohol from Manila. Travel time is about an hour and five minutes.

Here are the links to the most popular airlines in the country:

1. Cebu Pacific
2. Philippine Airlines
3. Air Asia

If you're the kind who wants to do land travel instead, there are multiple bus lines in Metro Manila that offer a trip directly to Bohol.
Where to Stay in BoholThere are two primary locations to stay in Bohol - Tagbilaran City or the Island of Panglao. Find a great accommodation with the best prices by using Booking.com.

Click the box at the right sidebar to check to find one.

Bohol Countryside Tour
This blog is focused on the Bohol Countryside Trip. We have a separate entry for our Panglao Trip so be sure to read on and click on this link for more contents. 

The first thing you have to consider is the tour provider. Most of the hotels, BnBs and transient houses offer their own tours. Since we only availed one tour, we cannot give you an objective comparison aside from the price. 

The average price for a car tour is around 1,800 - 2,200 pesos. Even 2,500 pesos is still reasonable given the number of places you'll visit. 

Places to Visit (In No Particular Order)

1. Chocolate Hills
2. Tarsier Conservation
3. Bilar Man-made Forest
4. Bamboo Bridge
5. Exotic Animals and Butterfly Garden
6. Baclayon Church
7. Sandugo Site

1. Chocolate HillsBohol is almost synonymous to Chocolate Hills. We've seen this on post cards, on our teacher's visual aid, but nothing beats seeing it personally.

This is the first destination of the Countryside Trip since it is also the farthest. It'll take you about 30 minutes or so to reach if coming from Tagbilaran.

You'll have to pay 40 pesos per head to see the majesty of Chocolate Hills. 

There is just one thing you have to consider if ever you'll visit Chocolate Hills - the volume of people. So pack up some patience since photobombers and view-hogs will be plenty.

2. Tarsier Sanctuary
Tarsier Sanctuary
Aside from the Chocolate Hills, Bohol is also popular due to its endemic fauna, particularly the tarsier. Tarsier is a nocturnal primate, known for its small size and peculiar appearance. With its large eyes and long tail, many are amazed by this creature.

Despite its otherworldly appearance, tarsiers are one of the most vulnerable animals to extinction mainly due to man's action. Deforestation led to many tarsiers losing their homes and source of food.

Sad Fact: Tarsiers do not do well in captivity (Well, I think all animals don't, duh?). There are some documented cases wherein a captive tarsier will try everything to escape. Even going to the point of bashing their heads on the walls of their cage which eventually leads to their death.

One of the most vulnerable animal to extinction
Things to Remember when Visiting the Tarsier Trail

1. Tarsiers are nocturnal, meaning they are awake during night time and asleep during our waking hours. Do not make loud noises.
2. Tarsiers are easily stressed by almost anything foreign. No flash photography, no prodding or trying to catch their attention
3. The Tarsier Trail is quite narrow. Observe walking in single file. No need to hold hands all the time, eh?
4. Since the trail is narrow, do not stop on the trail for an extended time. Do not be the cause of delay.

3. Bilar Man-made Forest

Bilar Man-made Forest

Just a few minutes away from the Tarsier Sanctuary, you'll pass by the Bilar Man-made Forest. There is no entrance fee here since your vehicle will only pass by it.

Enjoy the cool atmosphere within the man-made forest and look at the dizzying patterns of leaves and branches over your head.This road is covered in shade so you'll find the temperature here clean and pleasant. Have a picture in the middle of the deserted road.
Fun Fact: One thing you'll notice is that the leaves and branches create a canopy making the 2-km stretch of road under the shade. However, if you look more closely, you'll also notice that the leaves and branches do not really touch. This phenomenon is known as crown shyness.

Bilar Man-made Forest

Word of Caution: While this stretch may look deserted, always remember that this is still part of the National Road of Bohol. Make sure that no cars are passing by before you have that "middle of the road" shot, okay? The last thing you'll want is to be hit by a vehicle. 

Also, aside from the threat of being run over, some tourist are actually causing a lot of traffic. So learn to be sensitive. Don't be a kupal. 
4. Bamboo Bridge Crossing
Even as a kid, I always have an aversion on standing atop something that's unstable. Well, this activity is the exact opposite of it. Here, you'll have to cross a long, as in looooonng, rickety and swaying bamboo bridge, TWICE!

But do not skip this one. The view of the green river is just fantastic. And besides, walking atop a rickety, swaying, and purely wooden bridge is a good story.


View from the Bamboo Hanging Bridge
5. Exotic Animals and Butterfly Garden feat. Python ReccaOne thing I love about this tourist spot is the quaint and provincial feels it has. It is a simple mini-zoo and butterfly sanctuary manned by few locals. Well, it doesn't have an extravagant feels but it can still satisfy your curiosity to see (and even touch some of the animals) some exotic animals like the Palm Civet Cat, a reticulated python and more.

Personally, seeing many exotic animals cramped in their small cages makes me sad, but hey! It's up to you peeps.



The looks oh!
6. Baclayon ChurchAccording to the epitaph, Baclayon Church is the oldest coral built Church in the region. Baclayon Church was once considered to be part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites but was struck out when it was massively destroyed by the 2013 Bohol Earthquake.



Baclayon Church
Things to Remember

1. Baclayon Church is a church, first and foremost. So act accordingly. No wacky shots, loud voices and such.
2. Wear long pants and shirt with sleeves if ever you'll visit the Church. If by any chance you failed to do so, you can borrow a long scarf at the entrance, free of charge. 

You can help in the restoration and maintenance of the church by patronising some of its products. We bought souvenirs like Rosaries, fridge magnets and other neat stuff. It's our small way of helping. 

7. Blood Compact Site
You'll conclude your Countryside Tour by visiting the last marker which is the Blood Compact Site. Since I love historic places, I decided to have some bonding moments with the important people of Philippine History. 

Blood Compact Site
According to historians, this site witnessed the very first "Treaty of Friendship" not only in our country but also between Western and Eastern Civilization.

This treaty was sealed by a ritual called "Sandugo". The two chiefs, namely Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, shared a drink of wine mixed with both of their blood. 

The first treaty between East and West Civilization
Myth Buster: One of the recurring misconception regarding Blood Compact or Sandugo is that the people collect their blood through a cut in their wrist. However, historians defunct it and said that the blood was actually collected from a cut in the chest!


So here it is! I hope this entry can help you a lot in your next travel. One thing I learned on this trip is that, there are more learning outside the classroom. I learned more about history, culture and life in the Philippines by travelling. So just go out there! 

How will you know or feel the experiences of the great explorers before you? By visiting the places they had been.

-Adrian C. Villaflor, 2019
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When we talk about about weekend getaway, the usual places that come to a weekend warrior's mind (including mine) are mountains, beaches, and out of the city staycation. But there is a new and awesome destination in the heart of Manila you can visit for free.

Let me introduce you to the National Museum of Natural History.

The Tree of Life
How to get there?
Well, this is probably the most basic destination you can visit. Just ride a bus, a UV Express, or a jeepney that will pass by Luneta. Alight at Luneta. From there, the white, and majestic pillars of the Museum can be clearly seen. 
How much is the entrance free? Zero. Entrance is FREE, free free free (Fading echo)

What to Expect inside the National Museum of Natural History
The Museum has six levels with each levels dedicated to one area of specialization.


Level 1 is the Introduction to the Museum. Audio-visual booths are located here as well as the base of the Famous Tree of Life. This is where the Lower Entrance Hall is located.

Level 2 features our Natural Inheritance like the taxidermied remains of Haribon and other endemic species of our country.

Level 3 is an awesome exhibit of the different wetlands in our country. Learn how important mangroves are and how bodies of water are interconnected with each other.

Level 4 will take you to the Highlands and Wetlands of the Philippines with large dioramas and exhibits. Know the difference between Mossy Forest and Montane Forest and show off your knowledge next time you climb a mountain. Also, look for the Country's Most Famous Wetlands, and maybe visit them yourself.

Level 5 will give you the opportunity to have a close look at the different minerals and precious metals found in our country. Learn where our energy comes from and how we generate them.

Level 6, as of the writing of this entry, is not yet complete. According to the directory, it will be the spot for a sun garden. Right now, an exhibit of Benham Rise is at place.

There are lots of neat stuff to find in this Museum. Here are some of the photos we snapped during our visit.
Temporary Exhibit of the Month: Dinosaurs!!! Rawwrrr!
A diorama of an entomologist camp during field study
Megalodon Jaws: The blogger for scale


My Spirit Animal

The taxidermy of Lolong: the largest crocodile caught alive
Lolong and the blogger
Things to Remember before Visiting the Museum1. No large bags nor umbrellas are allowed inside the museum
2. Food and drinks are also not allowed
3. Keep your hands to yourself (hehehehe!) Strictly no touching of exhibits.
4. Be aware of lines on the floor. There are some exhibits that can only be appreciated from a certain distance
5. Avoid wacky poses. It's part of the museum policy, okay?
6. If you're going to choose a date of visit, might as well avoid weekends since the place will be packed

Beautiful places are not always in the distant lands. But you only have to open your eyes to see them. So I hope you get something from this entry. I'll see you peeps on the road!

-We often overlook what's in front of us.

Adrian Villaflor, January 2019




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Mt. Gulugod Baboy
Are you going for a swim or a hike? This is a usual trade-off for climbers especially during the summer months. However, what if I tell you that there is a climbing destination that can satisfy your need to climb and can get you your beach tan at the same time?

Let me introduce you to Mt. Gulugod Baboy.

Quickfacts
Height? 525 MASL according to Pinoymountaineer.com
Trail Difficulty? 2/9
Jump-off? Philpan Resort, Anilao, Mabini, Batangas
Roped Segment? None
Guide? Not required but available at the JOP
Beginner friendly? 100% YES!

How to get to Mt. Manabu
1. Ride a bus going to Batangas City. Alight at Batangas Grand Terminal. 
2. From the grand terminal, ride a jeepney going to Mabini
3. Alight at the Mabini Junction. There, you will see a tricycle going to PhilPan Resort. Ride the trike and tell them you plan on hiking Mt. Gulugod Baboy. 

Tale of the Trail

After a 30 minute tricycle ride, we were dropped off at the JOP. It is just a waiting shed with tables on it. It was already lunch time so the place was empty aside from the people manning the registration.

Everyone who's planning to climb the mountain is required to register at the JOP. You can go up without a guide since the trail is well-established and straight forward. But for us, we chose to get a guide since we were not very comfortable with our orienteering skills. (HAHAHAHAHA!)

We were assigned a seven-year old girl as our guide! I was starting to feel regret for getting a guide when Pearl struck a conversation with Sarah (our little guide) so I realized that our guide fee will go a long way.

The initial part of the trek starts at the earthen stairs at the left side of the registration area. You'll climb it for about 5 - 10 minutes until you reach a concrete road. Turn right and walk straight ahead until you see an ascending trail at your left.


The ascending trail is the formal start of your climb to Mt. Gulugod Baboy. Going up is through a mini-forest so you'll be protected from the sun all through out. Take note that the trail of Gulugod Baboy is quite short, but a continuous ascent with very minimal flat area.

It was surprisingly tiring, given that many of the online sources explicitly says that this mountain is easy. (Thanks ha!! JK)  However, the wit and the childish stories of Sarah kept us entertained the entire time.

After an hour of walking through the forest, we finally reached an open area that will take us to the summit of Mt. Gulugod Baboy.

At this point, Sarah told us that she can no longer accompany us since she had to go home and their house is still a long way. In other circumstances, I may have argued that our fee is supposed to take us to the summit but since Sarah is just seven years old, we gave her the money and some of our snacks and bid her goodbye.

When you reach the grassland, it means that the summit is just less than 30 minutes away. We were quick in finding a suitable campsite when we reached this spot. Be wary of cow dung! It would really be a hassle if you mistakenly pitch your camp atop of this organic bomb.

The summit! Yey!
Since there are only two of us, we pitched our tent first before we assaulted the summit. We were a bit nervous that our things might get stolen so every minute we were throwing glances on our camp. 


Assault to the summit
The trek up the summit was a breeze. We were both excited to see what was in store for us. At the summit, you'll have one of the best views of sunset ever. Feast your eyes on the beaches of Anilao, the Maricaban Strait and the distant Mindoro Island. Try to find the famous Sombrero Island if you're at the summit.
The blogger
The sun quickly set but fortunately we already pitched our tent earlier. Some of the other trekkers found it hard to pitch tent since the evening wind came with punishing strength that blew away anything not weighted down or pegged. We took our dinner and prepared to go to sleep. 




It was a good hike in Mt. Gulugod Baboy. However, when the night came, so are the other "elementals".  These people were (for lack of other term) a nuisance to all climbers that night. I am betting my money that these bunch are not mountaineers since they don't have any idea of proper mountain etiquette. 

They were pointing there strong flashlights on tents, talking, ehrrmm, shouting without any care to others, minding other people's business, and just being invasive. 

I was tempted many times to tell-off these people but Pearliloo kept on reminding me that they are probably drunk and I may end up beaten up by this people. It was a sleepless night,  trying to shut-off the shoutings and other noises emanating from their camp.

Garbage! oooh! Another garbage!
This was what greeted us in the morning! Garbage, and oooh, more garbage. There were lots of empty alcohol bottles strewn around the campsite but the people responsible were nowhere in sight. 

We picked up some of the garbages near our camp but unfortunately, we cannot carry more on our trash bag. I personally reported the incident to the person-in-charge that morning and he said that they'll burn the rubbish later. 

It was a bit disappointing that such behaviour is being brought to the mountains.

After a quick breakfast, we broke camp and proceeded on our descent. One thing we noticed was a tricycle driver offering a ride down of the mountain.

In order to go down the mountain, you'll have to backtrack to the same trail you used going up. It took us maybe an hour or so to reach the registration area. Remember to log-out at the registration area before anything else.

There are lots of private houses near PhilPan resort where you can use comfort rooms and shower. The fee for the use of the said facilities is 20 pesos per person.

We rode a trike back to the jeepney terminal. As we rolled faster and faster, we caught an amazing glimpse of the sparkling, blue sea of Anilao, Batangas. A place where the water kisses the blue sky.

A place with no past and future. Only present. 

-Adrian Villaflor, 2018 
My thoughts regarding the constructed concrete road leading to the summit of Mt. Gulugod BaboyMany of Gulugod Baboy's visitors are not mountaineers but rather excursionists who ride their way up the mountain. I based this assumption on our experience since there are only one other group who we had shared the trail going up but the summit is very much crowded.

While it is satisfying to see kids, old people, couples and entire families enjoying the scenic beauty of Batangas from Mt. Gulugod Baboy (made possible by the concrete road), there are some trade-off that we have to consider.

1. More people, greater impact on the mountain. If left unregulated, it is not very long before the beauty of Gulugod Baboy is diminished.
2. Attracting "climbers" who are not really into nature. Since it is far easier to climb this mountain, people who don't have a heart for nature will see this as just another spot to loiter and vandalize. For mountaineers, a mountain is a sacred place.
3. Massive commercialisation on the mountain. This is an inevitable truth for some mountains aside from Gulugod Baboy. During our visit, there are lots of stores and peddlers on the mountain to accommodate the sudden influx of visitors and mountaineers. While earning a living is okay, there must be some regulations to it.

Things to Remember 
  1. Practice Leave No Trace Principle. Do not be one of the a***oles who come to the mountain to act like a caveman. Being civilized and disciplined is needed all the time. Okay? If you can't practice LNT, don't go near any nature spots. 
  2. If doing it commuters-style, remember to bring extra cash. The trike ride is a bit expensive, 200 pesos one way. 
  3. The mountain tends to be very crowded during the summer months especially during holidays and weekends. Consider moving your climb date during off-season or weekdays at least. 
So you've read yet another entry from us. Check out our other stories for more adventure. Always remember, life is made up of experiences, so have as many experiences as possible. 


Thank you from the Restless Soles!

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At the summit of Mt. Humarap
Mt. Humarap: A Complete Travel Guide
Located 115 kilomoters south of Manila, Paete, Laguna is mostly known as the Carving Capital of the Philippines and is always overlooked as a destination for climbers and nature trippers.

But little did we know that this quaint town has an awesome destination that will be liked by travellers and mountaineers alike.

Mt. Humarap, or Tatlong Krus for the locals, features a scenic bird's eye view of the town of Paete, Laguna de Baie and the foothills of Rizal Province.
Fast FactsDifficulty: 2/9, Minor Climb
Elevation: 310 MASL at the highest point
Trail Description: Concrete stairs, mini-forest
Starting and exit Point: Brgy. Ilaya, Norte, Paete, Laguna
Guide/s: None, not required
Rope Segments: None
How to get There
1. From Alabang, ride a bus going to Sta. Cruz. Travel time is around 2.5 - 3 hrs. 
2. Alight at Sta. Cruz terminal. From there, ride a jeepney going to Paete, Laguna. Travel time is around 40 mins to 1 hour. Tell the jeepney driver to drop you off at Paete.
3. Ride a tricycle going to the jump-off point of Mt. Humarap. Specifically tell the driver that you are planning on hiking Mt. Humarap since trike can also go on the top of the mountain. 
4. You'll be dropped off by a narrow street. Walk through it until you hit the dirt road leading upwards. That is the start of the hike. If unsure, do not hesitate to ask the locals.
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Booking.com
Tale of the Trail
We were behind our self-imposed itinerary since the commute from Alabang to Sta. Cruz, Laguna had been slow. It was already past 11:00 am when we arrived at our destination. 

The climb will commence the moment you step off the trike. From there, you will walk through a narrow street for 5 to 10 minutes. Initially, it will not feel like you're going on a nature trip since the street looks like any other streets in the Metro. We were telling each other jokes like "Tama ba tong pinuntahan naten?" or "May bundok ba talaga dito?" 

Just continue walking until you notice the houses becoming more sparse by the minute. The exact start of the trail is not really pronounced but then you'll see a concrete stairs leading upward. 

The concrete stairs leading to the summit of Mt. Humarap
The concrete stairs are not particularly steep and have handrails for most part so falling down the sides is not really a problem. But you have to be careful from slipping since there are some sections that are covered by moss. 

Half-way through the summit, you will pass by a comfort room, with a small sign that says "Matabungka Falls". If you want to proceed to the summit, continue walking on the concrete stairs, but if you want to visit the falls first, then by all means follow the sign. Matabungka Falls is just 10 minutes away from the comfort room. For us, we chose to visit the falls after summiting the mountain.

At the junction, you will see this comfort room. If you follow the arrow, you will reach Matabungka Falls
The summit is less than 30 minutes away from this point. The stairs will even out just before the viewing point of Mt. Humarap. From this point, we were quite in a hurry since it was already noon time when we reached this point. 
Few minutes into the summit
It was already mid-day when we finally reached the summit of Mt. Humarap. The summit is an airy and grassy hilltop best suited for picnics and family gatherings. There are only few other visitors in the summit, mostly people who used the road to reach the summit since we did not share the trail with other climbers. 

Tatlomg Krus of Mt. Humarap
Certain facilities are available at the summit like comfort room, tables, and chairs since the location also caters for pilgrims during the Holy Week. Instead of renting a table and chairs, we decided to just use our picnic mat and just lie on the green grass under one of the many trees at the summit of Mt. Humarap. We ate lots of doughnut, as in lots of it during our stay here. 

The bloggers, Pearliloo and Iantot


The view of the top made the short hike all the more worth while. From the summit, you can see the entirety of the town of Paete and the largest lake in the Philippines, Laguna de Baie. One thing I noticed was that the shape of Paete looks like an eagle with its wings spread out. Rizal Province is the land mass beyond the lake.
Paete, Laguna de Baie and Mt. Sembrano at the background
If you look closely enough, you can make out the shape of Mt. Sembrano from the distance as well as the Pililia Windmills. It was like playing "I Spy", trying to locate all the familiar shapes and places in the distance. 

We relaxed and loitered for more than an hour in the summit before we head down once more to visit Matabungka Falls. From the summit, Matabungka Falls is just a 15-minute walk on the same trail. 

Matabungka Falls
During our visit, the cascade of the falls were kinda weak since there has been no rains in the last few days. But it is still refreshing. One thing we really like on this destination is that, since it is not very popular, we had the entire Matabungka Falls to ourselves! 

NOTE: This is not always the case. Mt. Humarap is a pilgrimage site so it tends to be very crowded during the Holy Week and other religious festivities. 

We only stayed for thirty minutes in the falls because the sun is already setting. The falls is covered by thick canopy of trees so the place darkens even before the sun actually sets. 

You can use the comfort room at the junction of the trail to change your clothing. However, during our visit, the toilet bowls were clogged so you can just use it as a changing room.

The descent had been a breeze, and were back in the town of Paete in less than thirty minutes. You can stroll in the quaint town of Paete, Laguna like we did. We saw a great deal of the culture of the town by visiting different stores and sculpting studio.

Support Filipino artists by purchasing local products! We bought small trinkets like ref magnets as a souvenir of our trip.

From the town center, ride a jeepney going back to Sta. Cruz. Tell the driver to drop you off at the bus station going back to Manila. Fare is around 25 PHP.

Mt .Humarap
It is not the altitude of the climb that matters, but rather your attitude towards the climb. It was an easy trek, but it was worth the effort. All goodbyes are temporary. We looked back and we know that we'll be back someday. Someday. 

- Adrian Villaflor, 2018


Things to Consider

1. As always, practice LNT. This is the first and foremost if ever you are going on a nature trip. 
2. No guides are required since this is an easy trek. However, never underestimate it. A climb is a climb, so practice proper climbing behaviour. 
3. If coming and going back from Manila, be reminded that you'll have to pass by Calamba, Laguna and Sto. Tomas, Batangas. Both have large volume of traffic so expect road congestion during peak times, 7am - 9am and 5pm - 8pm. 
4. We were not able to ask the caretaker if overnight camping is allowed on the summit. Maybe on your visit, you can ask around and let us know. 

Thank you for reading our story / travel guide. I hope you were able to get something out of it. Please like and subscribe to our facebook page. We would very much love to hear from you. Aja!

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Purgatory-Mangisi Traverse: Hiking Tips

Everything in Life is risky. So we might as well take a risk doing the things that make us feel alive. Life is not meant to be spent indoors where you are safe and tuck all the time but rather, living means taking chances, conquering fears and collecting experiences.

Background
Purgatory-Mangisi Traverse is a series of mountains namely Mt. Pack, Mt. Kokompol, Mt. Mangakew, Mt. Tangbaw, Mt. Bakian, and Mt. Purgatory. 

This hiking destination features primeval mossy and pine forest, mountain communities and even a sea of clouds making Purgatory - Mangisi Traverse a must try for any would-be mountaineers. 

Mt. Purgatory got its unique, but a bit notorious name from two American soldiers who used to man an observation post in one of its many peaks. The soldiers described that the mountain is too cold as if they really were in Purgatory. The remark stuck thus the name of the mountain. 
The Team
The climb was organized by Team iClimb, headed by one of the finest organizers I've met,  Sir Alfred Asan III. The climb date was June 2 - 3 2018.

Team iClimb headed by Sir Alfred Asan III
Fast Facts
Difficulty: 6/9, Major Climb
Elevation: 2329 MASL at the highest point
Trail Description: Mossy Forest, Mountain communities
Starting Point: Brgy. Japas, Bokod, Benguet
Ending Point: Brgy. Ekip, Bokod, Benguet
Guide/s: Required
Rope Segments: None

Tale of the Trail
The entire trail can be divided into three segments based from the characteristics of its surrounding. The initial part of the trail is through mountain communities, the second part cuts through a mossy forest and the third, from the last mountain to the exit point is through a pine forest. 

After a seven-hour ride from Manila, we had finally arrived at the JOP at Brgy. Japas in Bokod, Benguet. After stretching a bit, we started walking towards the registration area where we'd met the Local Tourism and DENR officers. The territory where Mt. Purgatory is situated is part of the Ancestral Domains of multiple ethnic groups of Cordillera and also a protected landscape by the DENR. Such as this, all would-be climbers of Purgatory-Mangisi are required to participate in an orientation seminar. 

The orientation seminar will last for about thirty minutes. Try to maximise your time in the registration area. Listen intently to familiarize yourself not only to the description of the trail but also to gain insights about the culture and way of life of the people.

Two guides were assigned for our group. 

Purgatory-Mangisi Traverse Map


First Segment
From the registration area, we went back to the road and had a short prayer of thanks and blessing before hitting the trail. 

The initial trail was through a forest and mountain communities. The trail was a gradual ascent with thick forest cover so you are protected from the punishing sun rays. It will take you about an hour or less, depending on your pace to reach the first of the many mountains in Purgatory Mangisi Traverse, Mt. Mangakew






Mt. Mangakew has a mountain community on top, so people still have access to electricity and running water. We took this chance to refill our water bottles and use their facilities since you'll be more or less cut-off from the usual comforts of home beyond this point. 

Mt. Mangagew, the first mountain of Purgatory-Mangisi Traverse
From Mt. Mangakew, it will take you another an hour or two to reach Mt. Pack. Going there is a bit more challenging since you will have to leave the forest cover on the first part. The trail from Mt. Mangakew to Mt. Pack will start off descending, so everyone knows that the next part will be an unforgiving ascend. 

The top of this mountain has lots of foliage so the view is not really on the actual summit but a few meters away from it. Just make sure to be careful in your wanderings since deep ravine may be concealed by the flora. At this point of our climb, we can feel the sudden drop in the temperature as the clouds slowly descended on us. 

Blogger at Mt. Pack
We stayed atop Mt. Pack for only 30 minutes before deciding to proceed to probably the most arduous part of our Purgatory-Mangisi Traverse, the mossy forest trail to Mt. Purgatory. 
Second Segment
The sky darkened, threatening to give us a shower. So from Mt. Pack, we decided to hit the trail again despite the fact that we were there for only few minutes. We were kinda wearied that the trail will be infinitely more difficult if the sky decided to let us have it while we're inside the mossy forest. 

The mossy forest trail looks like a landscape from a mystical stories in fairy tales. Feast your eyes on the wonderful flora inside the forest. The trail will take about 3 hours before you reach Mt. Purgatory. Changes in elevation inside the Mossy Forest is minimal. However, the challenge we'd encounter was the low lying branches and leaves that may scratch or entangle you as you navigate thru this almost-mystical place. At first, we are much engrossed with the primeval beauty of the mossy forest, but after hours of walking inside it, you'll want to get out of there fast.

The Mossy Forest
A Bit of Supernatural
Halfway thru our hike within the mossy forest, I was looking at the ground for a minute when someone shoved me and run ahead. I looked up and realized that one of our members ran ahead as if running away from something. When asked, she answered that while walking, she saw a small, dark figure watching her by the side of the trail. She was creeped the hell out so she ran ahead. 

It was a hell of a motivating factor as we quickened our pace upon hearing her story. 

Mt. Purgatory, yey!

After three and a half hours of walking inside the mossy forest, we finally reached Mt. Purgatory. There's a general sigh of relief as we are finally out of the labyrinth-like forest. 

We had a few minutes of rest and picture taking at Mt. Purgatory. We took an extended break to recuperate from the long walk.  I personally asked Mr. Alfred Asan if there will be more mossy forest ahead. When he answered no, I felt so relieved. Whew!

The team at Mt. Purgatory

From Mt. Purgatory, our next stop was Bakian Village followed by Tangbaw, where our homestay was located. The trail going to Bakian Village has a very different vibe to that of the previous trail. The ground is covered by pine needles, and from it, you can see more of the sceneries of Cordillera. 

Dips and assaults are in the minimum from here on forward so I personally enjoyed this part. It will take you about an hour and a half before you reach Bakian Village. We breezed through Bakian Village since the night was fast approaching and everyone was more eager to reach the homestay than have another sidetrip (including me).

Tangbaw is just a stones throw away from Bakian Village. It took us only 15 or so minutes before we reached the quaint village of Mt. Tangbaw. Sir Alfred quickly put in the work for our dinner. By nightfall, we finally got the chance to fill our stomach with something substantial, sinigang with rice. 

After dinner, we had a bit of socials before I dozed off to dreamland. 
Second Day
I was the first one (or so I thought) to woke up the next day. The temperature was refreshingly cold. I was quick to explore the village and its vicinity, walking up and down the slope near our homestay and just appreciating this piece of paradise. When I came back, everyone was up and preparing themselves for the last mountain in our itinerary, Mt. Kokompol. 

A handful of our members decided to stay in the homestay to rest since our itinerary changed a bit. Instead of doing the entire traverse, we will climb Mt. Kokompol then backtrack to homestay to pick up our things before proceeding to the exit point from Tangbaw . We did not proceed with the usual itinerary since a landslide made the trail from Mt. Kokompol to exit point more perilous. 

Sea of Clouds as seen from Tangbaw Viewpoint

From Tangbaw Campsite, it will take you 50 minutes to reach Mt. Kokompol. The trail is scenic with gradual ascents. Fifteen minutes before the summit, you will enter a forest where the trail increase in steepness. 

We were bit in a hurry since other groups are also aiming to summit Mt. Kokompol the same time as we. We were able to be the second team to reach the summit (yey for us!)

The view on Mt. Kokompol is just amazing. It is not an understatement to say that this place is where dream and reality meets. I was quite surprise to see a sea of clouds since there are only few literatures mentioning the sea of clouds in Purgatory-Mangisi. Watch as the sun slowly disperse the low clouds, showing the Cordillera mountain range with all its glory.
Sir Rommel at Kokompol Marker
Sir Al, with the sea of clouds as his background
After having our fill of awesomeness of the view, we went back to our homestay in a much quicker pace. After collecting our things and tidying up the place, we bid our farewell to our good host.
Third SegmentThe descent from Tangbaw to Pethal is pretty straight forward. You'll have to walk for a few minutes through the community before you reach a wide trail leading down. Before taking the trail leading down, you can walk straight first to visit the Mt. Tangbaw Marker. It is just a 5 minute or so walk, then just backtrack.


This segment is probably the easiest in the entire climb. It will take you about 3 hours to reach the jeepney pick-up point and ascents are very minimal. The first hour will be composed of walking under the canopy of pine trees and wide trail as seen on the photo below. 
The trail leading down the mountain
After an hour, you'll see a sari-sari store where you can rest for a while. From this point, the trail will cut through mountain communities, meaning you'll have to walk on cemented trails which I very much believe to be brutal on your knees. This community walk will last for about an hour also.

The sari-sari store
Then yet another hour, you'll be pretty much be in the middle of nowhere again. There will be some ascents but do not worry since you are nearing the conclusion of your climb. I'm not very fond of bringing my own trekking pole, so when the trail started getting steeper, I created my own expedient staff made of a tree branch.

The Basura Man of Mt. Purgatory
The view on this part was simply spectacular. You can see the glorious Cordillera Mountains, as well as the seemingly endless rice terraces. There are some portions in this trail that the soil is loose so proceed with caution.

After three hours of walking, we finally reached the jeepney pickup point. We took lunch here while waiting for our ride to arrive. After an hour of waiting, the monster jeep finally arrived. 

The jeep will then take us to the Bokod Municipal Hall where our van going back to Manila is waiting. Some of us rode at the top load just for the kicks, this is a bit of a bumpy ride so remember to hold-on to your seats. You'll pass by tobacco plantations and more of the mountain communities on your ride back to Municipal Hall. 

The ride down to Bokod Municipal Hall
This ride will only take about 15 to 20 minutes. Use of  comfort rooms and shower rooms are available for only 20 pesos per head. Me and some of the boys used the shower rooms in one of the private schools near the Municipal Hall. After 48 hours, I can finally peel myself off of my sweaty clothes (hahaha!). It was damn refreshing. 



Team IClimb
It was tiring, punishing to the body and mind (my left knee hurts like hell during the entire descent) but it was worth it. What made it more worth it is the quality of people whom you climb with. Special thanks to iClimb Mountain and its organizer Sir Alfred Asan III. 

After our "certificate shot", we finally boarded the van. As the wheels of the van slowly pick up speed, and the mountains slowly fades away in the distance, a sublime feeling came over me. I just survived another mountain. A pang of sadness, as I know I'll be leaving another small portion of my heart to this place. 

Thank you Lord, Thank you for this gift of Life and Nature.

- Adrian Villaflor, 2018

Things to Consider

1. If there's one thing I'll never get tired of reminding people is to always practice Leave No Trail Principle. If you find..
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Mt. Ugo Traverse
Cordillera never fails to amaze me. This region has many to offer for the wanderer in you. From sea of clouds to grand pine forest to exhilarating ridges. There are many times that I am tempted to leave my city life and just settle here for good. For this blog, I will introduce to you a mountain that we had climbed last October 2017.

Here is the story of our climb to Mt. Ugo. The climb was organized by Ms. Rea Hagape of Team Aligaga. There are 13 of us in the group, and one guide. Date of the climb - October 21 - 22, 2017.

The lucky 13 of Team Aligaga (blogger, Venz, Rosh, Rea, Aldrine, MJ, Jospeh, Darren, Enrico, Ronniel, Marina, Benjie, Marinel)

Fast Facts
Kayapa Town Hall
Elevation: 2,220 MASL
Location: At the border of Bengeut and Nueva Vizcaya
Jum-off Points: Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya and Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet
Trail description: Forested trail, open trail, ridges, pine forest
Special Concern/s? You have to secure a guide before your climb, otherwise you will not be permitted to enter the mountain
River Crossing? None
Rope Segment? None
Tale of the Trail
The entire trail can be divided into three segments. It features high altitude and pine forest, mountain communities, open trail, ridge walk, rice fields, and hanging bridge. 
First Segment The first segment was from the jump-off to  Indupit Village. This trail ensues a continuous  gradual to steep assault for about 3 - 4 hours. We started walking at around 9:00 AM. The trail was mostly covered by trees so sun exposure is minimal. However, this makes this segment humid and kind of lacking view. For me, this is the most tiring phase of the climb, despite having cover and established "steps". Like in every forest, it was humid and hot all the way.
Continuous assault to Indupit Village 
The team taking five, few minutes before reaching Indupit Village
We took a breather every 20 minutes. After the first hour, the line was already stretched with the sweeper no longer in sight of the lead. The team was further divided into two as the time and temperature progressed. We reached Indupit Village at exactly noon. Indupit Village is a mountain community where you can replenish supply.

We had our lunch and first "socials" here while we wait for the second team to arrive. We did not have time to chat before the climb so we took this opportunity to know each other. Electricity is still present in this place so you can still enjoy ice cold drinks here. But enjoy it while it lasts, because after this stop, the longest segment will follow.
Second Trail
The second segment is about 6 - 7 hours of long, winding, open trail. This trail connects Indupit Village, passing through Domolpos Village to the main campsite. The trail is open and wide. Good thing the weather was cloudy when we hiked, so we were able to avoid the scorching heat of the sun. The trail is actually wild and flat that, according to our guide, some cars could manage it. This winding trail follows the side of the mountain for many kilometers.

The second segment of the trail. So flat and wide

The spectacular view is enough to keep you going despite the many kilometers ahead of you.
Majestic View

New Zealand Feels

This is my favorite part of the climb. It was so relaxing with the cold Cordillera wind blowing to your face and body and the stunning view of the mountain range captivating your eyes. The conversations during this part is very minimal as everyone is now in full "communion in nature-mode".

The clouds started to descent at around 4PM. This reduced the visibility to just about a 10-meter radius. We quickened our pace by that time because we were worried that it might rain. We reached the boundary of Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet at around 4:30 PM.
No more view for us.
This small stone marker serves as the boundary of N. Vizcaya and Benguet
We reached the foot of the final assault at around 5:30 PM. We breezed through the last kilometers as the darkness is now slowly catching up to us. We radioed to the second team but the reception was now sporadic so we decided to have a compression stop instead. After 30 minutes or so, the sun was fully set when the guide asked us to decide whether we will continue on to the main campsite, meaning we will have to do a night trek, or to cut the trek short by setting up in the emergency camp. Before we made the decision, the second team finally arrived. After a consensus, we agreed to continue on as spending the night at the e-camp means longer trek in the morning.

We shouldered on, braved the dark trails and tapped to our final reserves for the final push. It took us more than an hour to get past the last hurdle! The trail was steep and narrow but still, our spirit was high as we can now hear people. We almost broke into a run when we finally saw the lights of the campsite. We reached the campsite after an hour and twenty minutes of continuous assault. But there is no rest for everyone. Tasks were divided, and we quickly got down to business. We wolfed down our dinner and immediately took our rest as a preparation for tomorrow.

But for me, as hardheaded as I am, I went out of my tent to watch the milky way. Without the light pollution, you can actually see the majesty of the stars. Too bad, I do not have the right equipment to capture such.

Sunrise atop Mt. Ugo
The majestic sea of clouds
A difficult road leads to a beautiful destination. Now, I fully appreciate the meaning of that quote. Every difficulty that we'd faced was now forgotten. 

I was eager to witness the sunrise. That's probably the reason why I woke up so early at around 4:30 AM. Everyone was still asleep so I continued my star watching for few more minutes. One tent after the another, people started stirring. By 5 AM, the campsite was already buzzing with activities, as each group are now starting to prepare their own breakfast. 

Finally, the sun rises in the east, and we, the eager creatures caught the glimpse of it. And it was spectacular. 

HERE COMES THE SUN!

Girl Power featuring Ms. Venz and Ms. Rosh

Venz, Nescafe Model
The sea of clouds was just majestic. It was an amazing scene, watching the clouds slowly creeping above the land below. The weather has been so good to us, that after we've eaten and packed our things, the sea of clouds was still there in the horizon.

8 AM and the sea of clouds in still there.

Assault to Summit
The summit is just a 20-minute hike from the main campsite. The trail to the summit is just a gradual ascent so no need to worry.  It was a bit of a race to the summit, since there are also other groups eager to be at the top. Luckily, our team reached the summit before the bulk of the climbers. 

Point towards the direction of your dreams. 


The blogger, Venz and Rosh

The Plane crash marker
Mt. Ugo had witnessed a tragic event in the 80's when an airplane crash just 100 feet below the summit.

The Descent
Going up is optional, but going down is mandatory. Unless you want to be a mountain hermit. The trail going down is the third segment of the climb. The length of this leg is whopping 15 kilometers, with some steep descents, ridge walk, passing by communities, and hanging bridge. 

Start of the descent

The initial segment of this leg is a quite steep descent with some parts with an inclination of 65-70 degrees. Be careful as you will be surrounded by tall grasses which can cause paper cut. I fell victim to one when I slipped and accidentally grab hold to the grasses. I cut my both of my hands in different places. It was painful as hell so I immediately wore my gloves until I reached the pine forest. 

The summit , seen from the pine forest
After the grassy part, you will enter a pine forest. From here, you can clearly see where you came from. The pine forest starts from KM 14 to KM 1. The ascent will be very minimal but the pressure of going down will surely be brutal to your knees. 

The pine forest here is reminiscent to that of Mt. Ulap.

Check out our Top Five Mountains to DIY for Beginners




There are multiple water sources along the trail, at KM 10, KM 7,  and KM 3. You can replenish your empty water bladders or bottles along the way.
The Cow IncidentWe've just passed by the KM 5 marker when we heard frantic voices at the tail of the group. Upon seeing, we saw that a cow was "chasing" the people at the end of the line. The cow was aggressively moving forward and making all kinds of noises. This gave us more motivation to hasten our progress. I think we were sharing the trail with the cow, and it decided to give us a boost. Nice one cow! We tried taking a video of it but the cow broke into a trot and so did we.

Ayun si baka sa likod! Ms. Rosh running away.
We had our lunch in a community located at KM 7. It serves as the last major stop for the people going down Mt. Ugo. A store is in place, where you can have a sugar boost from soft drinks. However, they do not sell bottled water here, but you can replenish your supply in a faucet for free.

We stayed at KM 7 for about an hour since we were waiting for the second group to arrive. Another perk here is that they have a fully functioning toilets here. Everyone took the call, if you know what I mean, while we were here.

After an hour, the second group reached our position so we decided to continue on.

Final Stretch
It was now late afternoon and the downhill trek had already taken its toll. Many of us now experience some extent of discomfort. MJ and I were already wincing from knee pain. This slowed our pace for a bit. Luckily, Ms. Venz had her pain killers with her which we took gratefully. 

We passed by a palamig store at KM 3. We took a 5-minute rest which turned into many more minutes. The cold juice running down your throat was so satisfying. Finally, the second group broke radio silence after a while. They reported that they are only trailing us for about 30 minutes. We were advised not to wait but instead to proceed and just meet them at KM 0. 

Again, we shouldered our packs and made our way to  KM 0. From this point to the end of the trail, the view continued to amaze us. You will pass by a community, a rice field and finally cross the Agno River via a hanging bridge. 

Agno River
Walking down the rice field, everyone is just so happy
Crossing the Animal Petican Bridge. Crossing it finally concludes our Mt. Ugo Traverse
Crossing the Hanging Bridge means that our Mt. Ugo was finally concluded. Our chartered van was already waiting for us at the end of the trail. 

It took us a total of 20 hours of walking, a few pops of painkillers, numerous cuts and bumps and two provinces later, we've made it. It was worth all the effort. I will definitely go back here despite every difficulty that we had experienced.

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Watching the sunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint
It's time to unplug and do some adventures! Here are the top five things to do in Sagada. 

Background: Sagada
Sagada is a 5th class municipality in Mt. Province situated about 400 kilometers north of Manila. This idyllic municipality can only be reached by land travel. It has a cool climate all year round, with a stunning view of the Cordillera mountain range. Activities in Sagada include hiking, spelunking, foodtripping, swimming, and many more. 

How to get there
There are several ways to get to Sagada but if you are coming from Manila, the most convenient way will be to ride a bus from Coda Lines. Their buses are brand new with comfy seats, and for safety, has two drivers driving alternately. 

The beautiful purple bus of Coda Lines
One thing I also love about this bus line is that they have a sidetrip to Banaue Viewing Point. I was able to witness the world famous Banaue Rice Terraces which made our Sagada Trip more awesome. 

Banaue Rice Terraces
Coda Bus Line Terminal had already moved from near Trinity College since 2015. Their buses now shares terminal with HM Transport in Cubao. 
Top Five Things to do in Sagada1. Mt. Ampacao traverse to Lake Danum
Sagada seen from above 
Looking for a dayhike while in Sagada? Worry no more. You can definitely squeeze a minor climb to your Sagada experience by climbing Mt. Ampacao. Its trail difficulty is  2/9 which can be managed in 1.5 - 2 hours of relaxed pace. Feast your eyes on the scenery of the Cordillera mountain range and the town of Sagada below. Then, to make it more worthwhile, do a traverse to Lake Danum for sunset viewing and picnic.

Lake Danum

2. Hike to the Marlboro Hills, traverse to Blue Soils, then explore Sumaguing Cave Connection
Sunrise at Kamanbaneng Peak, Marlboro Hills
The best time to hike to Marlboro Hills is early in the morning. Start as early as 4:30 to make sure you witness the majestic sunrise and the awesome sea of clouds. This requires about a 30-minute hike to a gentle trail but it is less crowded than Kiltepan Viewpoint. After watching the sunrise, you can hike towards Blue Soil for about an hour. 
Walking up and down the Bluesoils

You will pass by pine forest, rock outcrops and many beautiful sceneries before reaching Blue Soils. Blue Soils is like snow-covered hills sprinkled with blue dye. It is an incredible view that it seems you are in other country. If you inspect the soil, you will notice that the soil if somewhat powdery with evident shade of blue. Climb and play in a place that you fancy as a child. 

Now if you still have energy, you can complete this traverse by going to Sumaguing Cave Connection on foot, but if you have extra budget, you can charter a van for P250.  



Sumaguing Cave: What animal are we sitting on?

From Blue Soil Hills, you must hike for about 45 minutes before you reach the Sumaguing Cave Connection. Take note that the trail will be a cemented uphill road which can be brutal if you are not accustomed to hiking. Upon reaching the cave, be prepared to be mesmerized by the awesome limestone formations, stalactites, and stalagmites within the cave. Aside from that, guides have these particular way of entertaining the guest by letting you identify what animal or object resembles the natural rock formation inside the cave. Take a look at the photo. What animal resembles the rock where the bloggers are sitting on? The answer at the end of the story.
4. Watch Sunrise at Kiltepan View Point

Sit atop the same rock where Angelica and JM sat in the film "That Thing called Tadhana"

Sagada's sunrise is just too dang awesome that there are multiple viewpoints to see it. The most popular is the Kiltepan Viewpoint (because this is one of the sets of the film "That Thing called Tadhana). You can hike or charter a vehicle to take you here for P250. Sacrifice a bit of your sleep to watch as the sun slowly creep above the clouds. 
5. Central Sagada Tour
Hanging coffins of Sagada

The Echo Valley Tour encompasses multiple locations and activities within the town of Sagada. It means hiking and sightseeing and most importantly, learning the culture of Sagada. This tour is physically extraneous and at the same time educational as the guides explain the significance of things that you will find along the way. 

Locations included in the Echo Valley Tour:
  • The Church of St. Mary the Virign
  • Sagada Cemetery
  • Echo Valley
  • Hanging Coffins
  • Sagada Underground River
  • Bokong Natural Spring


Shout at the top of your lungs at the Echo Valley

Scene along the trail of Central Sagada Tour
St. Mary the Virigin Church

Inside the Sagada Underground River

A Note for Everyone
  1. Coda Lines only has two trips at night. One at 9PM and the other at 10PM. One way will cost you P720.00. Reserve early as the bus gets immediately fully-booked.
  1. As you can see, most of our destinations are interconnected and mostly done on foot to save money. A budgetarian Sagada Trip can be done but you have to sacrifice some hours of sleep and degree of comfort. (opportunity cost). 
  2. Meals are very expensive. Instead of going to restaurants, I recommend to buy your food from stores catering for the locals. We always have our lunch at the market eatery while dinner is in the local ihaw-ihaw (grilled barbeque) in front of Igorot Inn. This saved us considerable amount of money.
  3. Respect the locals. It was given emphasis by Kuya Baste, our guide, that some tourists treat the people and their houses like they are some kind of display in a museum. Respect boundaries!
BONUS: The answer to the question is a TURTLE.


 So, are you ready to go? Grab your backpacks and just go. Check out our other entries for other destinations. Peace out!

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