Saturday, January 30, 2016

Travel Guide to Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan


Waiting for sunrise

Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan are very close to each other and most hikers are doing the so-called "twin dayhike". These mountains were open to public last February 2015. It was new to hikers and the local government is still in the period of revising their policies, especially DENR as these mountains are considered as protected areas. The aforementioned mountains, including Mt. Hapunang Banoi are part of the Pamitinan Protective Landscape of DENR.  

Wawa River dividing Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Pamitinan

Montalban Mountains became popular because its near the Metro, perfect for budget travelers, the trail difficulty is for beginners and the "SEA OF CLOUDS" that is worth "INSTAGRAMMING". I saw a lot of hikers that doing the "buwis buhay" selfie that they will post in their social media account, some were even shouting or saying "hugot" stuff.

Exhibit A!

Anyway, I do not want to rant but I am quite happy to see young people climbing mountains and exploring their world. I just hope they become more responsible hikers! 

Going back, here is my Travel Guide to a twin day hike in Montalban, Rizal. Our guide for our hike was Tatay Fernando. You can contact him with this number (63) 921 - 564 - 7249.  He was recommended by my friend who also loves outdoor life, Gian.

Groufie with Tatay Fernando!

How to get there?

Ride a UV Express van, that is bound for (Montalban- Eastwood) from Cubao (Gateway - in front of Dunkin Donut), then tell the driver to drop you off at Eastwood and ride a tricycle going to DENR in Bgy. Wawa.

How to get home?

From the DENR Office there are jeeps and tricycles waiting. I highly advise that you take the public Jeepneys bound for Bayan or Eastwood or Robinson, it is more comfortable and cheaper than riding a tricycle. Then, tell the driver to drop you off at the FX Terminal or if you prefer taking the jeepney back to Cubao, just tell the driver. 

Our Itinerary for the Dayhike

2:00 AM Wake up | Prepare things | Travel to Cubao
3:00 AM ETD for Montalban
4:15 AM ETA DENR Office in Bgy. Wawa | Register and pay necessary fees
4:30 AM Start hike at Mt. Binacayan
5:30 AM ETA Summit | Enjoy Sunrise and Sea of Clouds
7:00 AM Start descent
8:00 AM Start hike at Mt. Pamitinan 
9:30 AM ETA Summit | Photo Op
10:30 AM Start Descent
11:00 AM Lunch at the so - called 7-11 | Rest | Eat Halo - Halo
1:00 PM Start Descent
1:30 PM ETA DENR Office | Freshen up 
3:00 PM ETD for Manila
4:30 PM Home Sweet Home

Total Expenses for our Trip: (Note: It was just ME and my PARTNER)

50 Php - FX to Montalban
60 Php - special / 30 each 
2 Php - Waiver
20 Php - "donation"
20 Php- "donation"
500 Php - Guide Fee / 250 each
8 Php - Jeep to Bayan
50 Php- FX to Cubao via Philcoa
360 Php!

Travel tips:

1. Start early, so  that you finish early. Also, if you start early there is a higher chance for you to reach the summit before sunrise and witness their majestic "sea of clouds". Lastly, it gets really crowded after 7 in the morning. 

See that, we were so early pero may NAUNA pa din. :D

2. There are stores on your way up, you may or may not bring too much food and water, just be prepared for cash, they do not accept credit cards! HAHAHAHA. 

3. Be friendly especially to the locals and people you meet along the way. :) This is basic. 

4. Please promote the Leave No Trace Policy. Be a responsible hiker. #biyaHERO!

5. Stop taking too much selfie on the summit, especially if there are LOTS of people waiting for their turn! You don't have to take picture of every corner of the mountain. 

1/8 ang ito ng taong nagaabang makapag summit

6. Stop playing loud music, talking/ laughing out loud, or even screaming! It is unethical and disturbing to other living things. ;)

7. It is advisable to wear a worker's gloves as the limestone are really sharp. Be more cautious and always listen to your guide. 

3M Workers Gloves

8. I highly recommend that you climb on weekdays, as it really gets crowded on weekends! There was a line going up to the summit of Pamitinan and people are waiting for their turn. BTW, we were 17th on the line. 0.0


9. It would be best if you already have a contact guide prior to your hike as it will ensure you that your guide is a LEGIT one, that has undergone training so that you will not just enjoy the view but also learn some history about their place. I highly recommend that you get Tatay Fernando on your next hike. He is very kind and funny! Call him, 0921 - 564 - 7249. 

10. There is a new policy effective February 1, 2016. They have new rates, please take note of the following:

*** Visting Time is from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Note: They do not allow hikers to start after 2pm, for safety purposes)

Verdict of Tara Gumala: It was a fulfilling hike, as it was my first time to climb two mountains in 1 day. I prefer early morning hike, as it is not exhausting. I will definitely come back here on a weekday. I regret going there on a weekend, it was so crowded. I enjoyed seeing young people but argh! I hate crowded places.



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekend at Borawan Island, Quezon

Travel tips in Borawan Island

Borawan is a short term for (Boracay and Palawan), according to a local I've talked to, the island used to be a private beach but later on it was opened to the public but still owned by private individuals. The name was coined after the two most famous islands in the country because of the island's features resembles both Boracay and Palawan. 

Special thanks to Atty. Oman of for inviting me in their outing at this island. Sometimes it is better to travel a place you did not do any research because it gives you the element of surprise. It makes you wonder what it can offer to you and without any expectations, Borawan surprised me with its beauty. 
Tara Gumala with Oman is an Island

Supposedly, we will do a twin dayhike on that weekend but when Atty. Oman invited us and it was for free, even if we were just invited a day before the trip, I hurriedly said yes. Who can say no to a great deal?? HAHAHA.

Anyway, this trip was under a travel agency, Escape Zone. Not really sure with the name, did not bother to ask. I just followed what is their itinerary, after all, SABIT lang naman ako. Haha. 

Borawan Island is in the municipality of Padre Burgos in Quezon which is 3 - 4 hours drive from Manila. You may opt to drive your own or commute your way up to the island.

Here was our itinerary: (*Note that a van transfer is already part of the deal & our driver drives fast) 

Day 1

3:00 AM Meet up at Loading Dock, The Medical City
4:00 AM ETD for Pagbilao 
6:30 AM ETA Pagbilao Market (Buy stuff over the weekend)
8:00 AM ETA Jump off point to Borawan (It was low - tide when we got there, so we walked towards the boat but the boat ride only took 15 minutes)
9:30 AM ETA Borawan (Pitch Tent, Prepare Food) 
2:00 PM Island Hopping at Kwebang Lampas, Dampalitan and Puting Buhangin (Optional)
7:00 PM Dinner

Day 2

5:00 AM Wake up, Star Gazing and wait for SUNRISE! One of the best sunrise I have ever seen.
6:30 AM Breakfast, Prepare things and Freshen up
9:30 AM ETD at Borawan
11:30 AM ETA Tiaong, Quezon (Lunch at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan)
2:00 AM ETD for Manila
5:00 PM ETA MANILA. Home sweet home. 

The package already includes all fees except food.

Travel tips:

1. Borawan is best visited during off season, it gets really crowded during summer. 

2. During summer, the owners of the place put up a net,  in the ocean to avoid guests from jellyfish sting. The whole island is infested with jellyfish, be careful. 

3. You can pitch your tent anywhere in the island. Note that cottages is where the crowd goes, so if you want a peaceful weekend, staying far from the cottages will help you. Besides, you can ask for tables and chairs.

Isn't it nice waking up with this kind of view? :)
4. There a security guard which always roam around the island and making sure every guest are doing fine.

5. Speaking of that guard, he will immediately go to you when your boat docks at the island and will collect fees. 

6. I did not enjoy swimming because the water is infested with large jellyfish and I couldn't see my feet. The water is not that clear. 

7. The island is well maintained. There are people who always clean the shoreline and the whole island is well lighted. 

8. Be sure to wake up early around 5am, you can chase milky way if you are into night photography while waiting for the sunrise.

9. There is electricity in the island but only from 6pm - 10pm and a fee for charging your phone. :)


11. The signal is strong and you can even browse your social media plus upload your selfie. *wink wink, nough nough*

Borawan Island is a nice place to visit if you want a quick weekend getaway during off season. The sunrise, limestone and white sand makes the perfect summer vibe. 


Friday, January 1, 2016

The Year I've become a Mountaineer

List of places I've been for the past year

2015 was a memorable year, mainly because of the following:
1. I was able to do my first ever solo backpacking.
2. I started organizing travels for my friends and colleagues.
3. I traveled locally, no international flights. #GoLocal
4. I conquered a lot of mountains and enjoyed the outdoor life.

As usual, the list will be in chronological order, no biases just a run down of places I have been for the past year. 

I. Mt. Pinatubo via Capas, Tarlac

(c) Macoy Garcia

II. Mt. Pico De Loro, Ternate, Cavite + Cavite De Boracay

(c) Macoy Garcia
Cavite De Boracay

III. Tanay, Rizal (Daranak Falls, Batlag Falls, Calinawan Cave and Regina Rica)
Batlag Falls (c) Elvis Torres

Daranak Falls

IV. Capones - Tinalisayen - Nagsasa, Pundaquit, Zambales

Capones Island
Tinalisayen Island with the whole cast

V. Visita Iglesia (Laguna x Quezon)

Pakil Church, Laguna

VI. Solo Backpacking Cebu (Bantayan Island & Malapascua Island)

Bantayan Island
Virgin Island
Malapascua Island
Basilica de Sto. Nino

VII. Fortune Island, Nasugbu, Batangas

VIII. Green Canyon Eco Art Resort, Clark, Pampanga

IX. Burias Islands, Masbate + Alibijaban Island, Quezon

Alibijiban Island
Party boat with these crazy people!
Tinalisayan Sand Bar

(c) Anne Orquiza

Sumaguing Cave, Sagada

Battad View Deck
Apo Whang - Od
Dinner with new found friends

XI. Mt. Manalmon, San Miguel, Bulacan


XII. Mt. Gulugod - Baboy x Sumbrero Island, Anilao, Batangas

Jump shot at the summit!
Taas kamay sa ganda!
Sumbrero Island

Chasing Milky way with him.
(c) Rizalde Cayanan
Sea of clouds at the back (c) Rizalde Cayanan

XIV. Mt. Maculot Traverse, Taal, Batangas

(c) Carol Anne Gonzales

I'm Feeling 23!

Okay, 15 weekends of traveling for one year! 16 Provinces, 12 Beaches,  8 Mountains, 3 Waterfalls, 3 Rice Terraces, 2 Caves, and my 1st Solo Backpacking! It was indeed a great year. Thank God for all the blessings. Hoping to see you with my next travels.