Benguet and Ifugao
Major jump-off: Brgy. Ballay, Kabayan, Benguet
LLA: 16.7000° N; 120.88333° E; 2842 MASL (#5)
Days required / Hours to summit: 2-3 days /4-6 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 2-4
Mt. Tabayoc, in Kabayan, Benguet, is the second highest mountain in Luzon and the fifth in the Philippines. Like its southern neighbor, Mt. Pulag, it has name variants, such as Tabayac or Talbayog. The meaning of the name, in the native tongues, is “basin”, alluding perhaps to the four lakes in its base: Lake Tabeo, Ambulalakao, Iculus, Detapnaco. All the lakes can be visited together with a hike to Tabayoc. You could camp near Lake Tabeo on the first day, in the same way that hikers would sometimes camp at Lake Venado before sumitting Mt. Apo. At 2206 MASL, the temperature is already cold up here. As for the Ambulalakao Lake, it is said to be the cleanest lake in Benguet.
The proximity to Tabayoc to Pulag’s famed Tawangan Trail makes it a possible trip before proceeding to Pulag. You can go by foot from Sitio Tabeo, Ballay to reach Brgy. Tawangan, the jump-off for the famed Tawangan trail. From there, you could proceed to the Ambangeg or Akiki trails. Also, you could visit the nearby sites such as the Opdas Mass Burial caves. On the other hand, there is also a trail to Mt. Tabayoc via Tinoc, Ifugao. This approach comes from the east.
The trek to Tabayoc via Ballay passes by forests similar to those encountered in the Tawangan trail. Trees are covered with moss in what is known to be one of the best-preserved virgin forests in the Philippines. Rare species, including those from the orchid genera Dendrochilum, filmy ferns, mosses, and forest trees abound in Tabayoc. The mountain is also habibat to a number of bird species, many of which are endemic and endangered. Unlike Mt. Pulag, which has an open grassland summit offering tantalizing views, Tabayoc is predominantly forested. Its main feature is being the second highest in Luzon, offering an alternate climb to Pulag; hikers will also find refreshment in its beautiful virgin forest.
The climbing conditions have previously been described in PinoyMountaineer as follows: “The trail to the summit of Tabayoc remains virtually unknown. Definitely, guides from Ballay and some preparation will be required. All climbs to Tabayoc, as of 2007, are still exploratory.” However, in 2008, it has become clear, thanks to the successful expeditions of Sir Adonis Lloren (April 2008) and the blogger himself (May 2008) that the summit is not only reachable, but quite manageable.
Even without reaching the summit, exploring this mountain, including the mystical Lake Tabeo, is a great experience because it is beautifully unfamiliar. Perhaps this pristine characteristic of the mountain adds to its charms, and sets it apart from its popular neighbor, Mt. Pulag.
Day 10100 ETD for Baguio City via Victory Liner Bus (P395)
0700 ETA Baguio City; breakfast
1000 ETD to Poblacion, Kabayan by A-liner bus (P144)
1630 ETA Brgy. Ballay, Kabayan.
1700 Start trek to Lake Tabeo
1800 Arrival at Lake Tabeo; set up camp or stay in houses there
1900 Dinner / socials
0500 Wake-up call / Quick breakfast
0530 Assault Mt. Tabayoc. Prepare for very dense forest trail.
0900 ETA Mt. Tabayoc summit (2842 MASL)
1000 Start descent
1300 Back at jump-off. Lunch.
1400 Explore the three other lakes.
1800 Back at campsite / Lake Tabeo village
1900 Dinner / socials
0700 Break camp / Prepare for descent
0900 Head back to Brgy. Ballay
1100 Take A-liner back to Baguio City
1730 Back at Baguio City / Dinner
2000 Take return bus to Manila
Logistics. Tabayoc is under the jurisdiction of the Mt. Pulag National Park, thus the protocol is the same as if you are climbing Pulag: you have the get a permit from the Park Superintendent through the contacts/procedures in the Mt. Pulag pages in PinoyMountaineer. It is also through the PASU by which you can get guides. Do not make personal/unofficial arrangements with the locals as walk-in climbers because the guides must be accredited by the PASU, as per their agreement.
Transportation. The ultimate stop of the A-Liner bus is Ballay, Kabayan – the jumpoff for a Tabayoc and the four lakes — this is also the one detailed in the above itinerary. It leaves Baguio City at 10 AM and arrives at around 1600 in Ballay. Allow for adjustments in time, but it is okay since Day 1 is just the easy ascent to Lake Tabeo.
Climbing notes. It is important to make sure that your guide knows the way, as the Tabayoc trail can get pretty confusing. It is also difficult to judge your position relative to the summit; but at the summit the trees as dwarven, and you can climb up the branches to afford a view of the Tabeo area.
MT. TABAYOC PICTURES
Early morning view of Mt. Tabayoc. The play of lights in high elevations can be a photographic fascination.
The forest of Mt. Tabayoc is dense and often moist. Here my classmate David tries to climb one of the trees to see the views beneath.
Lake Ambulalakao, one of the four lakes in the Ballay-Tawangan area, is surrounded with a beautiful forest.
A close rival of Mt. Tabayoc for the fifth-highest mountain spot is Mt. Kalatungan in Bukidnon. Other sources report its height to be 2,864 MASL. If confirmed, it could displace Tabayoc to the sixth spot.
WEATHER OUTLOOK: KABAYAN, BENGUET
Many thanks to David Chan, Robert Sarreal, and Agnes Sarreal, for joining the blogger in Mt. Tabayoc on May 13, 2008.