Hiking Mt. Pulag was not part of the plan, it was a result of my desire to further enjoy the cold climate of the north and the serenity that mountainous landscape offers.
I don’t want to come back to a loud metro just yet, so after an overnight bus trip from Banaue to Baguio and after a day rest I decided that hiking Mt. Pulag is a must.
At 2,922m height above sea level and officially designated as 3rd highest peak in the country, climbing Mt. Pulag is often consider as one of the best hiking expedition in the Philippines.
Every year thousands of Filipinos normally in huge mountaineering and expedition group scale the peak of Mt. Pulag, however my experience led me to believe that Mt. Pulag can be done independently.
After asking around in Baguio, I was advised to go to a transport terminal called Slaughterhouse and ask for a passenger van that can bring me to Bokod where the Mt. Pulag National Park Protected Area Office is located. From the National Park office, then I need to ask around for a transportation for hire that can bring me all the way to the Ranger Station, the jump off point for the famous Ambangeg Hiking Trail.
After spending almost two hours at the Slaughterhouse terminal waiting for the van to get full, we finally get going and made our way to Bokod. Upon reaching Bokod, I was directed by the van driver to the National Park Office for the mandatory registration and orientation.
The video orientation not only informative, it also made me so excited to see the beautiful trail and terrain of Mt. Pulag. The lady who facilitates the orientation was extremely helpful, she gave me her mobile number just in case of emergency.
After the orientation, I asked the National Park facilitator’s help for a way to reach the Ranger station. Seeing that I am alone and there was no point to suggest renting a more expensive jeepney or van, I was asked if I don’t mind back riding on a motorcycle. Never done that before though I am quite nervous I agreed since it was the only obvious option available.
After almost thirty minutes zooming around the small sometimes dangerous and damaged roads on the mountainside we reached the Ranger station. It is mandatory to have a hiking guide provided by the National Park Office, so while waiting for my guide I hang out at the only sari-sari store (general store), bought bars of Cloud 9 (our local version of Snickers chocolate bar), bread, boiled egg and bottled water- the provisions that will sustain me for the rest of the hike.
Though I have ample time to hike back and forth within the day, I was advised at the Park Office not to since I will miss out the sunrise and sea of clouds view which Mt. Pulag peak is known for. So I decided to make this as an overnight hiking trip even though I came unprepared. With no proper hiking equipment or camping gear, I am hopeful that layering all the clothes inside my backpack should be able to sustain me during cold night and early morning, however I will not survive the night without any shelter or tent. I asked the sari-sari store owner if she has any tent that can be rented for a night, like an answered prayer she had one and the plan to stay overnight push thru.
By mid-afternoon, we finally commenced our hike. Enjoying the serenity of the trail sheltered with trees and the beautiful landscape of surrounding mountains.
Finally, we reached Camping Ground 2 the designated spot for overnight campers. My guide helped me to setup my tent and settled in. After few minutes a huge group of climbers arrived, their tents occupying the rest of the place.
With plenty of time before dawn, I decided to walk around and explore the nearby surrounding.
I imagine that if I will be sent into space and landed on some unknown place the view will be exactly like these, me with nothing but a barren land and a wide open space- cue in repeat the song Space Odyssey by David Bowie in my head.
The rest of the afternoon did not disappoint. Together with the other campers and guides, the nearby smaller mountains closed to Camping Ground 2 was explored. The air was crisp, the view was superb, it was more than what I imagine Mt. Pulag is.
At around four in the morning, my guide and I get ready to move forward for our ascend towards the peak. With headlamps on, we hiked the remaining 2km distance towards the peak, to be there just in time for the sunrise. The wind still quite strong prevented everyone to fully enjoy the sea of clouds view. The hiking guides consensus that it was a very unusual weather, maybe a signal of an impending storm.
Afterwards, we packed our things and start our way back to the Ranger Station. I returned my rented tent and say goodbye to the sari-sari store owner and her kids, my reliable hiking guide and the officer at Ranger Station. The same rented motorcycle ride was waiting for me and took me back to the National Park Office at Bokod where I signed out, thus completing the wonderful hiking trip at Mt. Pulag.