Mount Kalugong (Benguet, PH)

“I like the mountains because they make me feel small,’ Jeff says. ‘They help me sort out what’s important in life.” — Mark Obmascik, Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled–and Knuckleheaded–Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

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Having lived in Baguio for over 15 years, I was able to see and experience places near the city not many people knew about. Being a self-confessed mountain-enthusiast, my weekends then were spent either pigging out in various Baguio City restaurant or sauntering my way to several mountains in Benguet. Now, if you are interested in marveling at a 360 degrees vista of the La Trinidad Valley, a chill and quick climb (less than an hour) to Mt. Kalugong Eco-Park is a place you might want to check out. It’s an eco-park, I know, however it is still a mountain top of sorts.

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Going through my write-ups about Benguet (and Cordillera) mountains I have scaled, I am surprised that only now am I making one for Mount Kalugong (considering that this is actually one of the first few mountains I have climbed in the area). Moreover, this mountain that boasts a beautiful rocky promontory in La Trinidad, is one of the well-known peaks in the capital town.

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By the way, the name Kalugong is a local term for “hat” as the rocky peak looks like a hat from afar. The climb actually is pretty easy as the road going to the park itself is established (at least at this point in time, unlike my first trek wayback 2009 when trail was not as good as what is now). The problem one might encounter now is when you start your walk while sun is already up or when it rains in the area (as the pine needles and rocks can be slippery).

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During the heyday, the main points of entry were a road in Barangay Tawang, and or via Sitio Tabangaoen in Barangay Balili (requiring someone to enter the premises of Benguet State University/ BSU). My friends and I would often use the latter as our point of entry and the former as our point of exit. Now a private property, the eco-park has undergone some developments that included a new entrance point which is via Barangay Cruz.

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Today, noticeable improvements were made that include traditional Cordilleran huts/houses, and some picnic tables. The highlight of going to Mount Kalugong is of course, making your way to the peak which is made up of amazing rock formations. Though it can be quite challenging to some (especially to those who have fear of heights), standing atop the sharp, naturally carved rocks is an adventure itself. The view from there is more than picturesque as it gives an outstanding vista of Baguio City and the La Trinidad Valley.

Another must experience is to have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake at the Kape-an, the cafe atop this mountain. Besides the great selection of hot and cold drinks, sumptuous cakes – the view of the entire La Trinidad valley is just impossible to ignore.

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How to Get to Mount Kalugong (the easiest way):

From Baguio City, take a jeep going to La Trinidad. Make sure that the jeepney passes by Barangay Upper Cruz and inform the driver that you are getting down at the Baguio Memorial Services in Barangay Cruz (upper). You will see a post that indicating which road leads to Mount Kalugong. Walk your way up through the road until you arrive at a fenced area, proceed inside and continue walking til the end of the road where you can see a welcome sign that indicates you have reached the eco-park.

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Don’t be a watsed soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

PHILIPPINE MOUNTAINS: My Personal Favorites

“In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ~ Jack Kerouac

I went on my first mountain climb after earning a college diploma. Even if I went to a university that is bounded by seemingly endless mountains, I was too focused with my academics, and did not give in to my nosiness as to what mountains can give me as a person. When I started working, the urging of 2 colleagues one summer, prompted me to try out hiking. We were to climb then the highest mountain in Luzon and the 2nd in the entire Philippines. I wasn’t fully decided (and wasn’t prepared either) when I had my first taste of sauntering mountains. Little did I know how difficult the trail was and how corporeally exhausting the climb be. I almost maligned my workmates for not telling me what to expect. But when we reached the top, everything tiresome suddenly left my weary soul. It was surreal.

And I fell in love with climbing mountains.PicMonkey Collage2

To date, I have trekked my way to more than 20 mountains – high and low; easy and challenging; happy and even happier (with Mount Pulag having scaled it 13 times).

Reaching the top of any mountain is an inspiring physical, mental, and emotional achievement. And it is fascinating and motivating. It reminds me that I can attain significant things with my life if I dream big and put it into work. It is a rewarding e very rewarding experience. It has ignited the wanderlust in me… to see more of the world around me.

The Philippines is gifted with various mountains, each with astounding and unique views along the trail and from atop. Here are some of my favorite.DSC_0066

MOUNT DARAITAN (Tanay, Rizal)

Close to Manila and part of the Sierra Madre mountain range, Mount Daratian in Tanay, Rizal — will reward mountain enthusiaists with its limestone viewpoints and tropical forest. There are also nearby natural attractions like caves, springs, and natural pools.

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MOUNT UGO  (Benguet – Nueva Vizcaya)

Huddled in the Cordillera mountains is Mount Ugo, known for its picture-perfect pine forests and nearby highland villages. At the peak, the awe-inspiring views of the Cordiller mountain range will greet the climber.

https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/mount-ugo/

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PICO de LORO (Cavite – Batangas)

Famous for its monolith called the “Parrot’s Beak”, Pico de Loro (or Mount Palay-Palay), is a must see destination for people who want to experience a taste of climbing Philippine mountains. It’s proximity to the Greater Metro Manila area makes it a usual hiking destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

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OSMEñA PEAK (Dalaguete, Cebu)

Standing at approximately 1,000 meters above sea level, the verdant Mantalingon range is home to the highest mountain in Cebu — Osmeña Peak. Once you reach the top, you’ll be mesmerized by its  360-degree view  that includes the southwestern coastline of Cebu, and you even see the province of Negros Oriental.

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MOUNT BATULAO (Nasugbu, Batangas)

This is a mountain that is effortlessly reachable from Metro Manila making it an ideal mountain to climb for beginners. The mountain’s serrated tooth-like peaks are a sight to behold. Trekking only requires about  3 to 4 hours along open, verdant, windy trails, with pleasant landscapes.

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MOUNT PINATUBO (Tarlac – Zambales)

The summit of this volcano/mountain has been wiped out by an eruption in 1991 creating a uniquely beautiful landscape. Moreso, amazing valleys of ash and a lake has made this mountain a favourite from among climbing and biking enthusiast.

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MOUNT PUNDAQUIT (San Antonio, Zambales)

Also called Mount Anawangin to some (because at the foot is where you can find Anawangin Cove), this mountain serves as an alternative route for people frolicking the said beach cove. The trail passes by shrublands and grasslands, and offers a 360-degrees spectacular view of the nearby mountains. There are also ornamental-looking plants adorning the paths, which would make you think that the trail is garden-like.DSC_5060 copy MOUNT TIMBAK (Atok, Benguet)

Mount Timbak – also called Mount Singakalsa is the 9th highest mountain in the Philippines and the 3rd in Luzon. It is one of the prominent peaks of the Cordillera Mountains range. Most people who scale the mountain not for its height but for the mummies and vegetable and flower terraces along the way. (You may also want to check my write – up on Mt. Timbak https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/mount-timbak-benguet-philippines/ )DSC_0928

MOUNT GULUGOD BABOY (Mabini, Batangas)

One mountain that is perfect for beginners is Gulugod Baboy, with its gentle slopes and verdant peaks and valleys. It boasts off an unobstructed view of the sea and some islands. Gulugod Baboy, which literally means Pig’s Spine because of its shape, is also a good vantage point to view both the sunrise and the sunset.DSC_3950 MOUNT TAWANG (La Trinidad, Benguet)

Mount Tawang (or Mount Jumbo/Mount Yangbaw) is actually a series of verdant (during rainy seasons) or chocolatey (during summer season) rolling hills with scattered rocky features and grassy landscape with a few undersized pine trees. It is approximately 2 kilometers from the main highway that runs through the town of La Trinidad in Benguet. Atop the mountainis a 360-degrees unhindered view of the La Trinidad Valley and some parts of Baguio City.coverpulag

MOUNT PULAG (Benguet – Ifugao – Nueva Vizcaya)

The “Playground of the Gods” is a favourite mountain destination for both hardcore mountaineers and nature-lovers. It is regarded as one of the coldest places in the country, with temperatures reaching sub-zero levels. What draws the interest of most people to Pulag, besides the freezing temperature, is the imposing view of the sea of clouds at its summit. Combine it with the magnificent sunrise, it would render any hiker speechless. Here is a more complete write up about this mountain at https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/mount-pulag/ )100_2395MOUNT APO (North Cotabato – Davao)

At 2,956 meters above sea level, Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines, hence given the title “King of Philippine Peaks”. The environ of Apo in itself is a feast to the eyes. From colossal boulder rocks to spectacular lake views and lush vegetation, Mount Apo is indeed a worthy trekking destination. (More of Mount Apo at https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/mount-apo-king-of-philippine-peaks/ )

S0 go and climb a mountain. You’ll love it. You’ll live it. Don’t be a wasted soul, be a wanderlust. Take it easy ebriwan. Roamulofied out.

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” ~ Greg Child

Mount Apo: King of Philippine Peaks

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” – Barry Finlay

Mount Apo, dubbed as  the “King of Philippine Peaks”, is the  country’s highest mountain peak with an elevation of 10,311 feet or 3,144 meters above sea level. It is also one of the Philippines’and Southeast Asia’s much sought after climbing destination.

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Apo means “ancestor” or “grandfather” or “elder”. Mount Apo , a sacred land among locals, is a large solfataric (a volcanic area that gives off sulfurous gases and steam), potentially-active stratovolcano (conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash). The date of its most recent eruption is unknown, and none are verified in historical times.

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Mount Apo, looms over the immense stretch of the southern tip of Mindanao island, adjoins over the mountainous edges of Davao City. It provides a picture-perfect view attributed to its diverse landscape ranging from volcanic formations, boulders/rockscapes, and the rich virgin forest lands of Davao City, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. The peak features a flat area with a 500-meter wide volcanic crater containing a small crater lake. The base of the mountain covers roughly about 72,796 hectares of mountain ranges that extend from Davao City, the provinces of Davao del Sur, Northern Cotabato, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur, and Misamis Oriental.

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When I accidentally started climbing (wayback 2004), I never pictured myself getting hooked with it. Never did I thought I would consider climbing Mt. Apo. But as I get to see and experience more mountains, the thought of a Mt. Apo climb slowly came into senses. It eventually became a predestined dream to chase. I guess it’s true that every Filipino mountain-enthusiast’s dream is to scale the Philippines’highest. And so in 2008, this vision was put into fruition.

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How to get to Mount Apo

Davao is well connected to both Manila and Cebu City, the two busiest international airports in the Philippines, and several local low-cost carrier with new and modern fleet, offer cheap daily flights from both Manila and Cebu starting at less than 2000 pesos (one-way). I flied from Cebu City and paid 2500 pesos (one-way), and back to Cebu City for 1800 pesos only (one-way).

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One can either stay a night in Davao City or go directly to Santa Cruz (45 km southwest of Davao), where a permit and guide/porter for Mount Apo must be arranged. After arriving Davao International Airport, try to avoid the taxi-touts at the entrance/exit who will try to charge 1500 pesos for a ride to Santa Cruz. Walk instead 50 metres from the terminal, where the white or yellow metred-taxis are. Here you can easily negotiate a price of 600-700 pesos. If you are on a really tight budget it will be even cheaper to commute like described below (total 207 pesos):

1. After arriving at Davao International Airport, ride a taxi to Ecoland Transport Terminal (travel time 20 minutes – 150 pesos)

2. At Ecoland Terminal, look for south-bound buses such as yellow bus, weena bus, ACFB or Metro Shuttle and ask the driver or the conductor that you will be dropped off at Santa Cruz Terminal (travel time 45 minutes to 1 hour – 43 pesos).

3. At Santa Cruz Terminal, take a motorcycle or tricycle taxi to the municipal hall, Tourism Office (travel time 5 minutes – 14 pesos)
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To get from Santa Cruz to the trailhead in Baroreng you can hire a jeep for 800 pesos or commute. The latter would be cheaper, 3 persons would cost 400+ pesos, but the time-frame would be more uncertain. While a jeep will take 1-1.5 hours to the trailhead in Baruring, commuting will take at least 2-3 hours depending on availability/departure of share-taxis, motorcycle taxis etc. First you need a bus from Santa Cruz to Digos, then a shared van/taxi from Digos to Kapatagan, and finally a motorcycle-taxi from Kapatagan to Baruring. (Excerpts from summitpost.org)

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Some Things to Consider:

You need a permit for this mountain, and guide/porter is mandatory. At the Tourism Office in Santa Cruz ask for Julius Paner. You better contact him in advance, at least a couple of days before you arrive Davao.
His mobile: 09208567991 (replace the leading zero with +63 if you are calling outside of the Philippines)
His e-mail: trekjulpanz@hotmail.com

The fees are:
500 pesos in registration/trekking fee
500 pesos in exit-fee (only if exit-point differ from entry-point)
500 pesos per day for a guide (mandatory)
300 pesos per day for a porter (mandatory)

Other requirements (which to me is really too much and the things that I personally did not like prior to the climb) include a letter of intent, an application form, 1×1 picture, medical certificate, waiver, briefing, certificate of briefing, etc. The papers go through the following offices: OCEEM, the city mayor, and the CTO.

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Sample Itinerary:

Day 1
03:00 AM Registration
03:30 AM ETD Davao to Kapatagan. Breakfast along the way.
08:00 AM ETA Kapatagan. Jump off point. Start trek
05:00 PM ETA Camp Godi-Godi. Set Camp
06:00 PM Prepare Dinner
07:00 PM Dinner. Lights out.
Day 2
07:00 AM Start Assault to Peak. Pass by boulders.
12:00 PM Boulders. Picture Taking. Lunch. Dead lake.
03:00 PM ETA Summit of Davao peak.
04:30 PM ETA Camp site. Set up camp. Dinner.
Day 3
04:30 AM Start Summit Assault for the Sunrise. Explore.
08:00 AM Breakfast. Break camp and start descent.
05:00 PM ETA Jump off point Kapatagan. Clean up.
06:00 PM ETD for Davao City
10:00 PM ETA in Davao City

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Things To Bring:

A good pair of trekking shoes

Sun and Rain Protection (Sun Block, rain coat, shades, cap etc.)

Water: # of days x 2 Liters

Trail food (snacks)

Clothes for the whole hike

Toiletries

Sleeping Bag/Blanket

Tent

Utensils

Headlamp / Flashlight

Raincoat / Umbrella

Trekking Pole

Slippers

Personal Medications

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True enough Mount Apo is a significant climb, especially  for individuals who are in search for adrenaline – inducing experiences . Its vista truly offers an adventure of a lifetime.

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Choose Philippines

Come and visit the 7, 107 islands of the Philippines!

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We have islands like emerald gems floating atop aquamarine waters.

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To spectacular, awe-inspiring sunsets…

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El Nido

https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/manila-sunset-march-18-2015/

Some fascinating architectural landmarks…

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Home to some exotic fauna…

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https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/stingless-jellyfish-of-tojoman-lagoon-philippines/

To spectacular and picture-perfect landscapes…

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https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/mount-pulag/

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To endless stretch of white and pristine beaches…

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We also boast off our majestic and enchanting waterfalls…

Majestic majestic!!!
Majestic majestic!!!

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https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/majestic-asik-asik-spring-falls-north-cotabato/

And many more… This 2015, make Philippines your ultimate destination getaway!