First of all, I want to apologize to my parents because this will be the first time they’re finding out about this impromptu adventure I’ve just had. I’m sorry, Dada and Momma
, but I had heaps of fun and I came back alive!
This past weekend, I had one of the best adventures I could ever experience. I witnessed the best sun rise at one of the best summits in the world and I hiked a really tall mountain overnight with amazing friends. Those are two wonderful First experiences that I will always treasure and I’m here to write a full length blog post for it because it’s just too good not to share. To make your reading experience worthwhile, I’ve included wonderful unfiltered photos I’ve taken while we hiked one of the highest mountains in the Philippines.
So.. Yes, Mt. Pulag. We conquered Mt. Pulag last week. I’ve noticed a trend among people who start at their twenties and onward in the Philippines, and that is they’ve gained this thirst for hiking. I don’t shy away from that observation since I’ve always wanted to experience something like it for quite some time now. It would be nice to get away from Manila’s scorching heat lately, and to go beyond my comfort zone and do something incredible. What better to do it than trekking the third highest mountain in the Philippines? Mt. Pulag is 2,922 meters high from sea level, and is just 32 meters shorter than Mt. Apo (tallest mountain in the country with 2,954 meters height) and 16 meters from Mt. Dulang-Dulang (second tallest and most often left out from the list with a 2,398 meters height). I feel it’s a liberating bragging right to say we’ve hiked it even if Mt. Pulag isn’t even in the top 100 tallest mountains in the world, but it is the highest one in Luzon. It still counts for something.
If you’re interested in emulating our adventure, I’m going to make it easier for you by giving you a very detailed blog post about it. I believe that it’s a very possible task, but it’s not for just anybody. Despite it being easy enough, it was extremely exhausting. All the worse if you’re totally out of shape (don’t get enough/don’t even exercise). We did an overnight hike to get most of the experience.
Even if it was a sort of spontaneous adventure, we had enough time to sort of prepare for it. We’ve read dozens of blog posts before firmly deciding on it. There were a lot helpful blog posts around but they weren’t very close to help us mentally and physically prepare for Mt. Pulag. It pays to read and research. A lot.
Before you even begin, you first need to give the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) office in Ambangeg a call to let them know that you will be there on your specific chosen dates and the number of participants in your group. We were a group of four. This is their way of controlling and limiting the number of hikers at Mt. Pulag per day because of the sudden bloom in enthusiastic climbers. Once they’ve given you a confirmation, you’re good to head to Ambangeg, Benguet. We were told that on weekends, they get an average of 500 hikers.
If you’re coming from Manila, you can start by getting a bus ticket from Victory Liner heading to Baguio for 750Php (Deluxe trip, direct trip of 4-6 hours depending what time you take it) or 450PhP (regular trip, 6-8 hours with 2-3 stop overs). There are other bus stations that offer Baguio trips but I’ve always taken Victory Liner. It feels the safest to me. From the Victory Liner station at Baguio, you can take a cab to the Old Slaughterhouse which won’t even cost you a hundred pesos (taxis in Baguio are incredibly cheap). Most drivers know where it is, but if not, just tell the driver to drop you off at the van terminal that has trips to Kabayan. From here, you take a two hour van ride to Ambangeg for only 120PhP per head. Their first trip starts as early as 7AM.
Gracious warning: If you’re very prone to motion sickness, it’s best that you bring anti-nausea medicine with you because the road from Baguio to Ambangeg consists of many zigzag roads that got us really sick. No blog post warned us about that. It was probably because our van driver was driving way too fast and didn’t even slow down during the curves. I almost threw up. That ride was extremely agonizing. It wasn’t only me but the rest of my friends who felt that way. Maybe because we’re not used to those kinds of roads or that kind of trip, but at least next time we’ll know better. We already dreaded the van ride going back after our hike. Urgh. It was such a relief when we had a short stop over at this local restaurant for bathroom break. It felt so good to get out of that van.
Once arriving to Ambangeg, there will be these motorbikes, or habal-habal as the locals call it, to bring you to the DENR office. The habal-habal ride costs 250PhP per head one way.
At the DENR office, you must register first and pay an entrance and camping fee of 150PhP. Once you’re done with that, you’ll be taken to watch a short AVP of the Do’s and Don’t plus a few trivia about Mt. Pulag all of which are highly insightful. Although in their AVP, they would mention that Mt. Pulag is the second highest mountain when it’s actually the third. I’ve researched about it. Anyway, once you’re done with the DENR Station, you can now continue your one hour habal-habal ride to the Babadac Ranger Station. This ride was fun because the breeze was really cool and the view on the way was already mesmerizing. Our drivers were kind enough to let us stop over at some points for a photo op.
Oh oh! If you don’t have a tent, there are rentable ones at the DENR station and a few at the Babadac Station, if I’m not mistaken. I’m just glad one of us owned one so it saved us money having to rent one for 900PhP.
Upon arriving at Babadac Ranger Station, you’ll be asked to hire a guide which we needed since we were all first timers. A Guide for a group of five and below is 800PhP per group. You also have an option to hire a Porter to carry some of your things for 600PhP per 15 kilos per porter. We hired a porter to carry our food, tent and water since it was too heavy for us to hike with. Both our guide and our porter were females. It was amusing. Aside from that, you have to pay 30 and 50 pesos for the Cultural and Green Fees respectively.
The cut off time for hikers to be at the Babadac Ranger Station is 5PM, by the way. Beyond that, you won’t be allowed to go trekking.
Oh, we also rented a portable stove for 200PhP because we didn’t know beforehand that camp fires were not allowed. All the while we were under the assumption that camp fires were permitted. You can also request to rent a pan/wok for 50PhP to cook your food at the camp site.
The hike starts at Babadac Ranger Station. From there, it was an hour trek up to Camp 1. We could’ve done it in an easy 30 minutes if we were faster though. You can set up camp at Camp 1 but we opted for Camp 2. We could’ve done it at Camp 3 but we weren’t early enough for that. Our guide, Ate Hilda, said that Camp 1 can host up to 50 people, while Camps 2 and 3 can host up to 150 each. We rested at Camp 1 for a few minutes before continuing our trek to Camp 2 which took about 2 hours for us and 1.5 hours for other people (mainly the professional hikers).
The hike was really fun and it was even better because we did it in a group. However, it is possible to do it on your own, and without a guide. We met a guy along the way who was on his own. He was so pro it made us look like sissies. This is also a good experience to share with a loved one especially when they’re just there to hold your hand along the way and protect you from steep trails.
Since we started out later than the usual, we ended up having a night hike which was really fun. It gave off this Silent Hill feels especially at Camp 1 where the sun started to set. It was pretty cool.
Our porter was so kind that she was the one who set up our tent so it was already done before we got to Camp 2. All we had to do was rest up, cook our food and hang out. It was a pretty chill evening. The stars looked mesmerizing and we couldn’t stop staring at it every now and then.
It gets incredibly cold at night so make sure you pack heavy clothes to keep you warm. I was already wearing double socks, gloves, three layers of sweaters and a beanie yet I still felt cold. It was so hard to sleep that night.
Oh, there are designated bathrooms at each camp so you don’t have to take your business just anywhere. However, the toilets smell incredibly bad so best to have something to cover your nose with.
At 3AM, we got up and started packing our stuff. We got ready to continue our hike up to the peak of Mt. Pulag. We left at 4AM and got to the summit in an hour and thirty minutes. We were faster this time around compared to the previous night. It was still pitch black so don’t forget to pack flashlights! Also, don’t forget to bring garbage bags with you so you can take your trash back with you. It’s our little way of keeping the purity of nature. Pick up after yourself. No garbage thrown anywhere, although it was disappointing to see some candy and food wrappers along the trail. Sigh~
The goal was to get to the summit before sun rise which was estimated to be at 5:45AM that day and I’m proud to say that we did. We thought for a while we wouldn’t because it was starting to get lighter and we haven’t reached our destination yet, but I’m so glad we did.
The summit is the peak of Mt. Pulag which is exactly 2,922 meters above sea level. It has the most majestic views I’ve ever seen and I’ve traveled around enough to say that it was one of the best. There at the summit held the famous Sea of Clouds which is something you can usually see when you’re in a plane. This trip was amazing because we were walking right through the clouds! I can’t succumb the right words to let you guys know just how beautiful it was up there. I don’t think that the photos I took did justice, but it was the best I could do. The cherry on top of this hike was the sun rise which was absolutely the best sun rise of my life. These photos without watermarks are some that I took with my Xperia Z3 which was my ultimate companion. The battery life was so amazing it lasted the whole two days with me, even with 3G at some spots in the mountain, surprisingly.
It was extremely cold at the summit. Remember the number of clothes I had on? It wasn’t enough for me. Good thing there were bushes at the peak where I protected myself for awhile from the really cold breeze coming from the passing clouds. I got my rain jacket and added it on as a desperate means to stay warm. I’m weak against the cold, you see. It was about ten degrees during that time and to think it was summer. What more during the coldest time on February?! I wouldn’t be able to handle it probably. Too cold, too cold.
We stayed for a long while at the peak and started heading back down when the sun fully rose. The hike down was a little easier than climbing up. I say a little because it was scary to see what we had to go through during the dark. The trail made it easy, yes, but that didn’t change the height and how close to the edge we were. One false step and you’d break a lot of parts in your body.
Our way down was half the time we took going up. The only annoying thing about that was the bugs. They were everywhere, even snails. It was irritating hearing them buzzing around you and more so when they’re close to your ears. Other than that, you can enjoy the scenery with lots of flowers especially the orchids.
We were back at Babadac Ranger Station by 11AM. We were starving and thankful that our guide, Ate Hilda, was kind enough to ask one of the locals to cook us food when we got back for a 150PhP cooking fee. It was so worth it though. After that, our habal-habal dudes were waiting for us to bring us back to the DENR station to log out, buy souvenirs and head to the van back to Baguio and then Manila. That was another 250, 120 and 750 pesos going back to Manila. In total, we spent about 2,900PhP each except Brian since he lives in Baguio so he didn’t have to pay 750 twice for bus rides to and from Manila.
There you have it. That ends our Mt. Pulag adventure. It’s because of that that I traded my #reginecelinatravels to #reginecelinatakestheworld because I’ll be doing more of these adventures and it’ll feel like I’m taking the world one place at a time. Traveling is such a wonderful adventure, my beloved readers. I hope that this blog post encourages you to hike Mt. Pulag as well. It’s easy enough and it’ll be such an accomplishment once you conquer this and get to cross it off your bucket list because that’s how awesome I felt when I did it!
Thank you, Marianne, Jay and Brian for sharing this experience with me. I’d also like to give special thanks to my wonderful boyfriend that made our trip even better by accommodating our every need. Thank you, Jared Michael. Oh oh, super special thanks to my #TrueLove Panda, Rhedentor Naguit, for my Slytherin scarf which was fresh from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan! #RhedenTours
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Even if it happened just a couple of days ago, it was great to relive the experience by writing about it.
Keep safe and stay adventurous, my beloved readers!