First jumpoff: Sitio Karahume, Brgy. Macabud, Rodriguez
second jumpoff: Sitio Balagbag, Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez
LLA: 777 MASL (unverified)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 1-2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-2
A hiking destination favored for its proximity to Metro Manila is Mt. Balagbag, located in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal. This mountain is part of the Sierra Madre range as it transitions into the plains of Central and Southern Luzon. At over 700 MASL, it is of sufficient elevation to offer views of Ortigas and some parts of Metro Manila, as well as the Ipo Watershed.
The trail is very easy and wide, and Mt. Balagbag is also a favorite of mountain bikers. Although locals recall a past when the mountain was covered with trees, it is now barren, and hikers who will trek it summer will find sun exposure as the only difficulty in this trek. Hence, dimtrekking (hiking very early in the morning or late afternoon) is recommended.
Additional features of Mt. Balagbag include some small waterfalls and rivers along the way, as well as the possibility of traversing to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan or other barangays of Rodriguez, Rizal. Along the way to Mt. Balabag, there is also the Veterans' Peak or Veterans' Summit which is more of a local tourist spot. There are security concerns regarding Balagbag at the moment, but it has the potential to be a nice and near hiking spot from Manila.
Note: The itinerary described below is open-ended, as there are various possibilities in doing the Mt. Balagbag climb.
0500 From Cubao, take jeep to Jolibee Tungko
0600 From Jolibee Tungko, take jeep to Karahume or Licao-Licao*
0700 Explore the waterfalls from Karahume
1030 Head off to the summit
1200 Arrival at summit
1300 Head down to Licao-Licao
1500 Back at jumpoff; take jeepney to Rodriguez then QC
1800 Back in Quezon City
Getting there. Considering the proximity of Mt. Balagbag to Manila, private transportation can be considered as a reasonable and very convenient option in hiking Balagbag. Simply head to Rodriguez, Rizal and then to Brgy. Macabud. An uphill road will take you to the Licao-Licao area, and from there, if your vehicle is sufficiently hardy, one can go all the way to Sitio Balagbag.
On the other hand, if taking public transportation, one can head from Cubao or PhilCOA to Tungko, where there is a jeepney to Licao-Licao. If you rented a jeepney, you can go past Sitio Karahume (for the waterfalls), Licao-Licao and go straight to Sitio Balagbag.
Guides and permits. Neither permits nor guides are required, but for the waterfalls, a guide may be desirable, and can be arranged at the jumpoff (Sitio Karahume). Registration is requested at Sitio Balagbag, but no registration fee is requested as of April 2011.
Campsites. Mt. Balagbag's summit serves as a campsite, and it is marked by a hut where one can also stay. Cellphone signal is reliable throughout the trail.
Safety. In 2011 there have been some reports of armed encounters in the area; it would be best to check with the locals first if it is safe to climb (and camp) in the mountain. As always, dayhikes are safer than overnight treks, but either way, vigilance and caution must be exercised.
PICTURES OF MT. BALAGBAG
The trail is very wide and open.
Although it had a forested past, Mt. Balagbag is now almost totally bare.
Local industries in the communities in Mt. Balagbag include making of walis-tambo, made of tambo grass, among others. Sadly, Mt. Balabag seems to be an exit point of illegal logging operations in the Sierra Madre, and the blogger witnessed the transport of logs via a 'secret trail' going down to another barangay of Rodriguez, Rizal.