A Day in the East, Mt. Daraitan

“Salt water is the cure for anything- sweat, tears or even the sea.” I have always been the beach type of person. I could stay in the beach for as long as I want and enjoy the waves while I watch the sunrise or sunset. My country is so blessed with many pristine beaches, and I have a lifetime to visit them all. Aside from the beautiful beaches, we are also blessed with mountains that boast breath-taking views and home to many lives. I have visited a few, and would love to see more. However, my work schedule and physical fitness are giving me a hard time to conquer the mountains. I work on a shifting basis, and I do not have a permanent sleeping pattern. You definitely need a goodnight’s sleep before going up the mountains. Second, you need to be physically fit in order to get up and continue moving. Different mountains have different assaults, trails, and difficulties. If you have not prepared, you will likely have a hard time climbing up the mountains.

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I have visited several mountains before, some are volcanic in nature, others are home to breath-taking falls. There is always this enchanting experience whenever I go for a climb. It feels like I’m in a different world/dimension. There are still a lot to see, and I wish to visit all of them. I’m hoping and praying for strength and safety, so I could pay them a visit.

Last December, my friends, invited me for a climb. To be honest, I was not totally prepared for it, but I was game to do it. December weather is way better than the scorching heat of summer, just kept our fingers crossed that it will not rain. We were on a search on which mountain are we gonna climb. We selected it based on location, summit view, and difficulty. We ended up with Mt. Daraitan, in Tanay, Rizal. Just about 2 hours away from Manila. It offers an amazing view of the country’s east side and the Sierra Madre range. It also holds a difficulty of 4/9, which means that it’s a minor climb and beginner friendly.

12.08.18- Mt. Daraitan, Tinipak River in Tanay, Rizal/General Nakar, Quezon

A few days before our planned trip, we searched for “group tours”, on Facebook’s Buhay Bundok group. It’s not really a group tour, but rather, you’ll be all coming from Manila and taking a van going to Tanay, Rizal and back, and your group will be given a local tour guide. This is the best way to visit Mt. Daraitan, as their government is limiting the people going up to the mountain. It is also mandatory to get a local tour guide, because it’s for your own safety, and they know their mountains well, and you are helping their livelihood. The base of Mt. Daraitan is very countryside, and locals live through their tourism.

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Trivia: Mulawin, the series, was shot here

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Mt. Daraitan is partly Tanay, Rizal and partly General Nakar, Quezon

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Our local guide

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Our group met up in Mcdonald’s Shaw at 12 midnight, and we arrived in Daraitan, Tanay at around 2 in the morning. There was a cold breeze, and little drops of rain and we were welcomed by sellers of flashlight, gloves, warmers, etc. If you have forgotten to bring some of the essentials, worry not, it’s available in the area. It is very important that you know how to balance yourself as we stood on a bamboo raft to get us to the other side. Then a 10 min. ride trike, took us to the barangay hall for our briefing (the DO’s and DON’Ts), registration and introduced us to our guides. Before starting our trek, we were given an ample time to eat breakfast and do our bathroom breaks, so at exactly 4am, we started moving.

As we moved up, it’s getting muddier, slippery, and steeper. The rain wasn’t also stopping, so imagine the hassle. Thank God for flashlights, tree barks, and occasional man-made handles. We were literally grasping for every rock that we can reach. We were already near the 1st station, when I can loudly hear my heartbeat. We tried moving again, but this time, my friend’s shoes gave up. Since it wasn’t safe to carry on, we decided to go down, and instead, we trekked along the Tinipak River. The crowd along the river is opposite of the mountain. It was getting crowded as groups of people started hiking, while it was only the 4 of us (my 2 friends and I, plus our guide) who were trekking along the river. We enjoyed it more! The whole place was just to ourselves. It was so quiet that you can only hear the gushing of water and the chirping of birds. Tinipak River is one of the clearest waters I have ever seen and it was so clean. We enjoyed wading in the water.

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We had a hearty breakfast meal near the river, before we continued moving to the rock formations. Again, it was all to ourselves. According to our guide, they do not classify Mt. Daraitan as a beginner’s hike because of it’s 90 degrees assault, and 4/9 difficulty increases especially when it rains. For them, it is not a minor hike. Now, I’m wondering why it is classified under beginner’s hike, when according to locals it is not an easy hike.

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It has been a good day despite of not reaching the summit (but we’ll get there too), we were one with nature, and it’s just good to be with her.

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Budget:

PHP 850/pax for RT van transfer Manila-Daraitan, registration fee, guide fee, environmental fee

PHP 100 (up to you) my tip for our guide

PHP 20- use of shower rooms

PHP 200- total I spent on meals

 

When Disaster Aftermath Leads to Nature’s Beauty- Mt. Pinatubo

Almost 26 years ago, it was the most devastating natural disaster that occurred, not only in the Philippines, but in the world. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales has gotten so many lives, and buried them underground alive. Many people were forced to leave their houses without any idea when they can comeback. The ashes from the volcanic eruption went as far as Hong Kong, and the world temperature for 10 years was decreased by 1 degree Celsius. I remember in the late 90s, whenever we spend our summer in Pundaquit, Zambales, we always pass by the province of Pampanga, and the remnants of the lahar look so fresh, and the surroundings were very much like a zombie land.

The calamity of yesterday turned out to be a beautiful disaster. As we trekked for 2 hours going to the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo, we passed by several smiling Aetas, the locals of the area. Afterwards, we’ve seen the most rewarding view of the lake.

Mt. Pinatubo in a glance of a few hours (02.20.17)

My very good friend invited me to join their group, who will trek the Capas, Tarlac trail of Mt. Pinatubo. Without any hesitations, I said yes. I don’t normally do hiking, due to my very demanding work that requires me to sleep during my days off. I tried several before like trekking in Mt. Buntot Palos, and Mt. Isarog, and I have loved the rewarding view of the falls in those mountains. I strongly felt that I can do Pinatubo, since I got to experience spelunking at Biak na Bato, but heck that was in my freshman year in high school, almost 12 years ago. For someone like me who considers walking as a form of exercise, I got to reach the peak of Mt. Pinatubo without giving up.

In the Monday morning of Feb. 20, the group met in Ortigas. The trip was organized by my friend’s friend who happens to be working for Nat Geo, and they create new trails for mountains. Such a cool job, you get to discover a lot of new adventures. We were a group of 10, 3 of them were my batch mates in high school, and the rest were from the same circle of flying.

Our van left Ortigas, at 3:30am, and before the sun rises, we were already at the jump-off point in Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. We were required to register at the tourism office and once our 4×4 rides were available, we started our adventure.

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The ride was around an hour and a half, and we were the first ones to make a trip, so we created the path that will be followed by the other trekkers later.

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Toblerone-shaped lahar mountain

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We had a short stop-over at the Toblerone-like mountain. The mountains were created out of lahar.

After our 4×4 ride, this is when we started to trek. It was probably 3-4 kms in distance. They say that it used to be a very long trek, almost 7kms if I remember it right. However, according to what I’ve heard, some areas have been bulldozed to give way for “VIPs” who will be visiting/inspecting the area. Such a shame, it’s nature who will adjust for those people, and that’s the ugly truth.

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Another area for registration

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After several mins., i found a bathroom with water. Yehey!! I’ve been wanting to pee for the longest time, but I have to hold it or else, I’ll do it somewhere in the bush.

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Where do you belong?

After several walks again, we found a banner stating that it’s 20 mins. more to the crater. I saw some locals doing their laundry by the stream, and didn’t mind the scorching heat. There were families of Aetas living in that part, so please if you happen to go here, bring some snacks or anything for the kids. I’m sure they will appreciate it.

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Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations

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Finally!

At last, we reach the peak. It was 9am and the view was rewarding. My trekking was worth every penny.

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Happy, my hs batchmate & volleyball teammate during our varsity days

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Cat, beautiful friend since 2nd grade. 18 years of solid friendship.

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Kev, my good friend since 1st year high school

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Thank you to these beautiful people for the wonderful time

 

We stayed for an hour and camp by the lake. I suggest that you bring your own food and drinks and load up on carbs. There’s a lone store there, but the prices of his goods are way too high.

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High school never ends

Before we went back, we made sure that we didn’t leave any trash.

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Leave nothing but footprints

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The expenses for this trip was PHP 3100 per head for a group of 10. It includes transfer rides from Manila to jump-off point and vice-versa, registration fee, environmental fee and 4×4 ride. Pack light and wear something comfy that can cover you from heat.

After our trek, we took a shower in one of the houses near the jump-off point, and paid 50 bucks.

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Since it was still early to go home, we had a side trip in Angeles, Pampanga, and ate at Funnside Ningnangan.

For itinerary and budget, clickΒ Itinerary- Mt. Pinatubo 2017