Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hiking matters #472: Hiking up Mt. Nagchajan (1455m) in Mayoyao, Ifugao

The Mayoyao Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
as viewed from Mt. Nagchajan
MAYOYAO, IFUGAO - Today I hiked up Mt. Nagchajan (pronounced ‘nagchayan’) in Brgy. Chaya, Mayoyao, Ifugao with fellow researchers from UP. The hike, it turned out, was a visual immersion in the Rice Terraces of Mayoyao - one of the five clusters that constitute the Ifugao Rice Terraces - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 1 or 1.7-km ascent (depending on where you’re coming from begins at the highway in Brgy. Chaya, actually involves trekking through the terraces until you reach the forested parts of the mountain.

A Mt. Nagchajan Viewpoint serves as a rest stop and a historical landmark, commemorating the site where, at the twilight of World War II, Japanese forces led by General Yamashita took their last stand from July 25 to August 7, 1945. This “Battle of Mayoyao” continues to be recounted by locals, with our guide Jason saying that the Japanese had the upper ground, but were besieged, and eventually surrendered. Actually, a road is now being built all the way to the viewpoint, which means that the trek will be an abbreviated one in the future.

From the viewpoint (1281m), there is a trail that leads to the summit (1455m) where Smart has a tower. Though short, the trek is still a respectable one, with steep ascents on ancient, rocky footpaths. There are enough pines to remind the hiker of Mt. Ugo or parts of Mt. Amuyao. At the summit, we could see the rice terraces and the surrounding mountains on one side; and Mayoyao town proper on the other. From a distance looms the lowlands of Isabela and vague outlines of the Sierra Madre. Beautiful sights all over!

Past the summit my guide Jason and I explored a bit further, reaching the rock that serves as the boundary Chaya and another barangay. Because of the tower atop Nagchajan, and the fact that Mayoyao is just 4 hours away from Pat-yay village, I can say that in some way Mt. Nagchajan is a “mini-Amuyao”, a destination in itself or a sidetrip for those who are coming to Mayoyao as part of an Amuyao Traverse. Of course, the Mayoyao Terraces themselves are reason enough to visit, and in this case I would strongly suggest including Nagchajan as part of your itinerary.
After the Mt. Nagchajan hike we proceeded to Tenogtog Waterfalls as a sidetrip. En route to this waterfalls, I actually saw the trail that leads to Pat-yay Village - and I am very excited to go back to do the Amuyao Traverse via Mayoyao (my Amuyao Traverse in 2008 was the longer, traditional route from Barlig to Batad). Anyway, the waterfalls had two levels, both of which were quite nice. As expected, the day of trekking culminated with a nice dip in the waterfalls. Thanks to Ate Carol, our guide Jason, and Ivan Henares and team for this Mayoyao adventure!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mt. Hapunang Banoi (517+)

MT. HAPUNANG BANOI
Rodriguez, Rizal
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal
LLA: 14°44′25.3′′ N, 121°11′30.4′ 517 MASL (+460m)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-3.5 hours
Specs: Minor, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 1-4 with limestone scrambling
Features: Limestone formations, scenic views of Sierra Madre and Rizal province
Article history: Created July 27, 2015
Author: Gideon Lasco

BACKGROUND
The documentation of the beautiful mountains of Montalban, Rizal continues, and Pinoy Mountaineer is very supportive of promoting ecotourism in the area as an alternative to illegal logging, charcoal making, and other destructive activities that are threatening the Sierra Madre. Moreover, these mountains can help spread the impact of hiking, diminishing the crowds of Maculot, Pico de Loro, and Batulao. Just an hour away from Metro Manila, Brgy. Wawa is especially promising, and the past several months have seen efforts from the barangay to make things more organised.

After the twin mountains of Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan, as well as the distinctive Mt. Ayaas, comes Mt. Hapunang Banoi, which is actually conjoined with Mt. Pamitinan. This 'elder silbing' of Pamitinan and Binacayan features the same limestone formations, but it is arguably a notch higher in terms of difficulty, altitude, and length.

Banoi is the Tagalog word for eagle, and the name of the mountain comes from its folkloric seat as the 'place where eagles come to dine'. The fact that there are other mountains named Banoi - the one in Lobo, Batangas and Tukduang Banoi in Tanay, Rizal facing Mt. Irid - speaks of the extent of the eagles' domain in the past. Unfortunately, the eagles have dwindled in number - but guides say that they continue to see them occasionally.

Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Hapunang Banoi share a common trail that passes through the rock climbing walls of Montalban until the junction with Mt. Pamitinan (277 MASL). From here, the leftward trail leads to Hapunang Banoi. Bamboo groves admix with rocky trails, culminating in a rocky ridge of sharp limestone that is breathtaking. The summit, too, is an anarchic rock formation, with minimal
flat spaces - but a worthy achievement after all the scrambling! The observant hiker will certainly not miss Mt. Arayat, Mt. Balagbag, Mt. Ayaas, Mt. Banahaw, Mt. Cristobal, and more peaks on a clear day!

The local guides say that Mt. Hapunang Banoi is their favorite and it is easy to understand why. I do think that Mt. Pamitinan, with its dramatic peak, has its own character and is still my recommended first mountain in Wawa. But for those who have already done it, Mt. Hapunang Banoi is certainly a great reason to go back - it's not just "more of the same", but comes up with its own interesting sights. And of course you can also do both Pamitinan and Hapunang Banoi on the same hike!

ITINERARIES

MT. HAPUNANG BANOI DAYHIKE

0400 Take van from Cubao to Eastwood, Rodriguez, Rizal
0530 ETA Rodriguez, Rizal; take trike or jeep to brgy. Wawa
0600 Arrival at Brgy. Wawa. Register at DENR station / barangay hall
0630 Start trek up Hapunang Banoi
0730 Arrival at junction with Mt. Pamitinan
0930 ETA summit
1030 Start descent
1200 Lunch at junction
1300 Resume descent
1400 Back at Brgy. Wawa. Explore the area / Sidetrips
1700 Tidy up then take outbound trike
1930 Back in Manila.

MT. HAPUNANG BANOI + PAMITINAN DAYHIKE

0400 Take van from Cubao to Eastwood, Rodriguez, Rizal
0530 ETA Rodriguez, Rizal; take trike or jeep to brgy. Wawa
0600 Arrival at Brgy. Wawa. Register at DENR station / barangay hall
0630 Start trek up Hapunang Banoi
0730 Arrival at junction with Mt. Pamitinan
0930 ETA summit
1030 Start descent
1200 Lunch at junction
1300 Assault Mt. Pamitinan
1430 ETA summit of Mt. Pamitinan
1530 Start descent
1630 Back at junction
1730 Back at Brgy. Wawa. Tidy up then take outbound trike
2000 Back in Manila.

PRACTICALITIES: MT. HAPUNANG BANOI
Transportation
Public (1) Van, Cubao to Montalban (Eastwood) [P50; 1-1.5 hours]
(2) Jeep or trike, Montalban (Eastwood) to Wawa [P7.50-P10; <30 mins]

Alternatively, take any transport to Montalban (i.e. via Marikina) then take (2)
Approximately 2-3 hours travel time because of various stops and delays. 

Private. Head out to Rodriguez, Rizal via Marikina and San Mateo, then follow the road to Wawa Dam. There is an entrance of P50 for private vehicles. Parking slots are available in front of the tourism office Approximately 1.5-2.5 hours travel time.
Registration
In order:
(1) Logbook at the DENR station in Wawa.
(2) Logbook at the barangay hall
P2 registration per person at the DENR station and donation of any amount in the barangay hall
Available; assigned at the tourism office/ barangay hall. No fixed rates but P400/day is suggested (add more if twin dayhikes) 
+639493956589 (Emman, guide)
+639473868778 (Ogie, guide)
 +639983266559 (Richard Salina, guide)
+639295497211 (Joni - barangay)
Please share more contact numbers if you have them. Better to call the contacts rather than text as they may always have load.
Campsites and waypoints
Camping is possible in the junction with Mt. Pamitinan and there are also small flat areas that can serve as campsites for small groups. Check with guides.

Waypoints
(1) Climbing wall 14°43′56.5′′ N, 121°11′22.5′ 164 MASL
(2) Junction 14°44′1.35′′ N, 121°11′29.3′ 277 MASL
(3) Mt. Hapunang Banoi Summit 14°44′25.3′′ N, 121°11′30.4′ 517 MASL 
Water sources
None past the community
Cellphone signal
Sporadic at the summit
(+) at the junction with Mt. Pamitinan
River crossings
None
Roped segments
None but some hikers may require assistance in some parts near summit
None
None
Rattan
Some
Hiking notes 
As mentioned above - be very cautious when hiking during the rainy season or during/after heavy rains 
Sidetrips
Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan
Mt. Ayaas
Rock climbing in Mt. Pamitinan
Swimming by Wawa Dam
Alternate trails
Traverse to Mt. Pamitinan (see above)
Traverse from junction to an alternate route to Wawa Dam
Yes
Facilities at jumpoff
(+) Sari-sari stores
(+) Carinderias / paluto
(+) Wash-up / shower places
(+) Cottages by Wawa Dam

There are gloves available at the DENR office for P50 pesos each.

500-700 (dayhike)
800-1000 (overnight)

MT. HAPUNANG BANOI PICTURES
Resting at one of the many viewpoints in Mt. Hapunang Banoi with
Mt. Ayaas at the background
HIking up Mt. Hapunang Banoi with Mt. Pamitinan at the background
At the summit of Mt. Hapunang Banoi (517m)

One of the limestone cliffs that hikers must cross en route to the summit.
If you look closely you can see some hikers making the descent.

TRIVIA
The blogger hiked Mt. Hapunang Banoi on July 27, 2015, his third hiking trip in Wawa after Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan (February 2015) and Mt. Ayaas (June 2015). His guides were Allan and Ronald.

THE MOUNTAINS OF WAWA
Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan
Mt. Ayaas

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Makulog—the Thor of Batangas

The author's son, Xygy Cuevas, at Mt. Maculot's Rockies
by Arturo Cuevas
Founding Member, UST Mountaineering Club (1970)

Throw in a hand to rein in an astray that we may have helped unleash more than a quarter of a century ago. This is what this blog is all about.

In the early 1970s, the UST Mountaineering Club (later the Mountaineering Association of the Philippines) pioneered in organized mountain-climbing in the country. Our itineraries from those years and onwards to the 80s and 90s included Apo, Pulag, Tab’yo, Mayon, Isarog, Halcon, Bulusan, Cleopatra’s Needle, Cabayugan Half-Dome, Arayat, Banahaw, Makiling, and Sabah’s Kinabalu. And with Cuenca, Batangas, being my hometown, Mt. Makulot too was but of course on our list, mostly for the challenge of its West Wall dramatically rising from the shores of Lake Taal.

Back then, it was hard to imagine Makulot as the weekender’s destination that it has now become, along with all the concerns brought by the growth of the volume of human traffic up and down the mountain. We practically have the mountain to ourselves then, but share it we did along with our other adventures, in pictures and in published articles, hoping to inspire some kindred souls. Looking back, what may be our blunder was not firmly addressing the problems and issues, primarily environmental, of mountain-climbing becoming popular.

A mountain’s lore
Education on what the mountains are and what they represent, should perhaps contribute on how to handle this opened Pandora’s Box—to make climbers realize that their place of visit is worth all the respect as their very own homes. Mt. Makulot, for one, is steeped in lore but much of it is little-known, and recounting some may lend some more esteem to this popular trekkers’ mountain.

The mountain’s name, for one, remains an intriguing mystery to most, including the younger generation among locals. There are two schools of thought as to why the name “Makulot.” One is that it is a derivative of makulog (thunder-filled or thunderous). Just a single experience of the reverberating crescendo of a thunderstorm in Cuenca should more than explain this makulog appellation.

Another belief is that the name Makulot simply came from a wild shrub quite common in the area which locals call kulutan. These wild plants are hard to miss; what with their rounded seeds growing Velcro-like appendages and sticking to the clothing (and even bare skin) of passers-by.

Also well-acquainted among visitors of the mountain are the tall cogon grasses on some of Makulot slopes, particularly where campers overnight nowadays. I distinctively remember as a kid that that these grasses were deliberately set on fire occasionally.  The young grass shoots post-fire make for good cattle fodder, and in the old days, local folks say, the mature grasses are gathered for cogon thatch roofing.

Enchanted golden bull
As in any other Philippine mountain, Makulot too has its own distinct folklore, in much the same way that Makiling has its Mariang Makiling, Arayat its Mariang Sinukuan, and Mayon its Daragang Magayon.  Only, the symbolism is of the masculine genre for Makulot which local legend says is home to a “torong ginto” or golden bull lording among the native encantos or enchanted ones whose haunts extend all the way to the Taal Volcano-island, making their presence felt whenever there is a display of thunder and lightning at the cloud-shrouded slopes of Makulot and its west wall.

The geological history of the mountain is also as fascinating.  Makulot is volcanic in origin. Geologists believe that Taal Lake was once the caldera of a monstrous pre-historic volcano, and Mt. Makulot was formed by one of its many unrecorded eruptions; hence, there is this spectacular Makulot West Wall rising all the way down from the lake. It has also been observed that it is Mt. Makulot, especially its West Wall, which has shadowed and protected the town of Cuenca from the recent eruptions of present-day Taal Volcano.

Thunder of the Gun of Makatmon
Visiting climbers call the top of the Makulot West Wall, the “Rockies.”  But to us locals, it’s known by the more intriguing “Indulanin” (which research tells me is a song or lullaby). And the shoulder-like campsite east of these rocky outcrops is called “Makatmon,” a ridge which earned some quaint place in World War II history.

Old folks of Cuenca recall that the Japanese imperial army bracing for the “Liberation” of the Philippines and General Macarthur’s landing in Luzon, hauled one of the biggest cannons in Japan’s armory all the way to Makulot’s Makatmon.  There, the Japanese, using forced labor, dug complex tunnels ala Iwo-Jima, and installed this humongous cannon on rails leading to one of those tunnels, which brings to mind the classic war film Guns of Navarone.

For a while, so the town’s old-timers say, the Japanese and their cannon at the Makulot/Makatmon ridge vantage point had a field day taking pot shots at the Americans who by then have landed at the Batangas and Balayan Bays. The Americans bombarded Makulot with their own artillery and heavy aircraft bombers. But the Japanese cannon kept on firing, eluding US spotter planes from taking a fix of its location by simply retreating into its tunnel immediately after giving the Americans a barrage of fusillade.

My math teacher in the Cuenca high school I attended told us that applying physics to the situation was what saved the day for the US forces. By patiently observing with binoculars the cannon’s smoke after each barrage, factoring in the time of impact and sound blasts, he said that the GIs finally took a bearing or an estimated fix of the position of the Mt. Makulot cannon.  And to the Americans’ credit, or just by sheer luck, their time-and-motion computations were so accurate that the American artillery hit the cannon-on-rails right on its barrel before it could reach the safety of its tunnel-nest.

Hopefully, these vignettes on Makulot can contribute toward a more interesting and enriching climbing experience, and as important, elicit a firmer commitment and obligation to the visitor to keep the mountain as it has been before. For who knows? Amid the mountain’s thunder and lightning, there may be this golden bull and its encanto troops charging along, or in moonless nights, some ghosts of Japanese soldiers may still be there, straggling in a vain search for the cannon they’ve unknowingly lost.

With these rambling thoughts, therefore, wouldn’t it be a fitting preamble for those planning a climb to this mountain that where they’re headed is a marvelous visit to the home of “Makulog,” the BatangueƱos’ very own Thor?

Contributions and guest posts are welcome in Pinoy Mountaineer. Send your submissions at info@pinoymountaineer.com.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mt. Ayaas (627+) in Rodriguez, Rizal

MT. AYAAS
Rodriguez, Rizal
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal
Minor jumpoff: Brgy. Mascap, Rodriguez, Rizal
LLA: 14°45′3.38′′ N, 121°12′27.5′ 627 MASL (+570)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-4 hours
Specs: Minor, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3 with river trekking
Features: River trekking, scenic views, waterfalls
Article history: July 6, 2015
Author: Gideon Lasco

BACKGROUND
With the advent of the documentation of Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan, Brgy. Wawa in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal is fast becoming a haven for hikers. Just an hour away from Metro Manila, and offering dramatic views atop limestone formations, these mountains are truly worthy dayhikes.

Mt. Ayaas is a pleasant addition to the outdoor destinations of Rodriguez, Rizal. While Pamitinan, Binacayan, and Hapunang Banoi are practicality look-alikes, Mt. Ayaas is a mountain made distinctive by its river trekking and grassland slopes. Moreover, it is arguably the most challenging of the hikes in the area - even though all of them are relatively easy and are, as of July 2015, rated as Difficulty 3/9.

Just like the other mountains in the area, the hike up Mt. Ayaas originates from Brgy. Wawa proper. Passing through Wawa Dam and the magnificent gorge. The first half involves mostly river trekking, and the difficulty is highly weather-dependent, as the rocks are very slippery when wet - and the water level is high such that it is inevitable that you yourself will get wet.

Past the river trek, the trail becomes more inclined, passing through woodlands and a final assault up grassland slopes to reach the summit. At times, the trek is reminiscent of the Malipunyo Range and other Batangas mountains. At the top,  one is treated to a view of not just the Wawa mountains, but also Mt. Lubog (SE).

With its distinctive features, ease of access, and relatively challenging trails, Mt. Ayaas is truly another compelling reason to visit Montalban!

ITINERARIES

MT. AYAAS DAYHIKE

0400 Take van from Cubao to Eastwood, Rodriguez, Rizal
0530 ETA Rodriguez, Rizal; take trike or jeep to brgy. Wawa
0600 Arrival at Brgy. Wawa. Register at barangay hall / tourism office
0630 Start trek up Mt. Ayaas
0730 ETA waterfalls
0830 End of river trekking
0930 Arrival at transmission tower. Final assault
1030 ETA summit
1100 Start descent
1400 Back at Brgy. Wawa.  Tidy up then take outbound trike.
1630 Back in Manila.

MT. AYAAS TRAVERSE

0400 Take van from Cubao to Eastwood, Rodriguez, Rizal
0530 ETA Rodriguez, Rizal; take trike or jeep to brgy. Wawa
0600 Arrival at Brgy. Wawa. Register at barangay hall / tourism office
0630 Start trek up Mt. Ayaas
0730 ETA waterfalls
0830 End of river trekking
0930 Arrival at transmission tower. Final assault
1030 ETA summit
1100 Traverse to Mascap
1400 ETA Mascap, take trike to Montalban
1500 ETA Montalban,  Tidy up then take outbound trike.
1730 Back in Manila.

PRACTICALITIES: MT. AYAAS
Transportation
Public (1) Van, Cubao to Montalban (Eastwood) [P50; 1-1.5 hours]
(2) Jeep or trike, Montalban (Eastwood) to Wawa [P7.50-P10; <30 mins]

Alternatively, take any transport to Montalban (i.e. via Marikina) then take (2)
Approximately 2-3 hours travel time because of various stops and delays. 

Private. Head out to Rodriguez, Rizal via Marikina and San Mateo, then follow the road to Wawa Dam. There is an entrance of P50 for private vehicles. Parking slots are available in front of the tourism office Approximately 1.5-2.5 hours travel time.
Registration
In order:
(1) Logbook at the DENR station in Wawa.
(2) Logbook at the Tourism Office in Wawa.
(3) Logbook at the barangay hall
P2 registration per person and donation of any amount 
Available; assigned at the tourism office/ barangay hall. No fixed rates but P400/day is suggested (add more if twin dayhikes) 
+639493956589 (Emman, guide)
+639473868778 (Ogie, guide)
 +639983266559 (Richard Salina, guide)
+639295497211 (Joni - barangay)
Please share more contact numbers if you have them. Better to call the contacts rather than text as they may always have load.
Campsites and waypoints
Possible at the summit and at the transmission tower area, among others, but usually done as a dayhike

Waypoints:
(1) Bamboo Bridge 14°43′37.9′′ N, 121°11′36.2′′, 55 MASL
(2) Waterfalls 14°44′8.11′′ N, 121°12′5.18′′, 203 MASL
(3) Transmission Tower 14°44′46.8′′ N, 121°12′11.4′′, 435 MASL 
Water sources
(+) abundant along the river system
(-) summit
Cellphone signal
Sporadic along the trail and the summit
River crossings
Bamboo bridge-crossing near Wawa Dam
River trekking for first half of the trail. Usually manageable but caution during the rainy season. 
Roped segments
None 
None
Some
Rattan
Some
Hiking notes 
As mentioned above - be very cautious when hiking during the rainy season or during/after heavy rains 
Sidetrips
Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan
Mt. Hapunang Banoi
Rock climbing in Mt. Pamitinan
Swimming by Wawa Dam
Alternate trails
Traverse to Brgy. Mascap (see above)
Yes
Facilities at jumpoff
(+) Sari-sari stores
(+) Carinderias / paluto
(+) Wash-up / shower places
(+) Cottages by Wawa Dam

There are gloves available at the DENR office for P50 pesos each.

500-700 (dayhike)
800-1000 (overnight)

MT. AYAAS PICTURES
The approach to Mt. Ayaas begins in Wawa Dam, against the backdrop
of the scenic Montalban Gorge
Foggy view of the Wawa mountains: Mt. Binacayan, Mt. Pamitinan, and
Hapunang Banoi
Descending along one of the waterfalls in the river trekking part of the trail


TRIVIA
Mt. Ayaas is the fifth mountain of Rodriguez, Rizal to have an itinerary in Pinoy Mountaineer (after Pamitinan, Binacayan, and Lubog). It is also the seventh Rizal mountain in a span of a year to be documented in the website (the Montalban mountains plus Irid and Daraitan). The thrust towards documenting and featuring mountains in the near-Sierra Madre is in line with our thrust of combating destructive mountain practices through ecotourism.

The blogger hiked Mt. Ayaas on July 4, 2015.

THE MOUNTAINS OF RODRIGUEZ, RIZAL
Mt. Ayaas
Mt. Hapunang Banoi / Hapunang Baboy
Mt. Sapang Uwak

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