Hiking matters #327: Mt. Tangisan, Mt. Bungkol Baka, and Mt. Kawayan in one dayhike!

Seven months after we did the Mt. Damas dayhike traverse (Hiking matters #282), My friends and I once again joined the GAME-NEST hiking club for a hike in their province, Tarlac. Just like Mt. Damas, this second adventure of ours proved to be a very enjoyable, very challenging dayhike, taking us not one, nor two, but three mountains: Tangisan, Bungkol Baka, and Kawayan, constituting what can be called the ‘San Jose Circuit’ (check out the article here).

Joining me from Manila were Sir Martin, Chrissie (Jovial Wanderer), and for the first time, Jay Z Jorge. For their part, GAME-NEST was led by Emman Miclat and Chad Torres, together with several club members (see their names in the acknowledgment below). We all met up at the McDo in Tarlac, near the Siesta Bus Terminal, then proceeded to the jumpoff using a truck. At Brgy. Iba, which is one of the possible jumpoffs, we were welcomed by San Jose Vice Mayor Romeo Capitulo, who expressed support for hiking activities in their area.

From Brgy. Iba, we had to cross a river, which, though shallow, had rocks that were too slippery that there was no choice but to wade in the water. So the very first leg of the hike, no more than 5 minutes from the trailhead, involved having your shoes wet! Anyway, this was not going to dampen our spirits. After five or ten minutes we reached Sitio San Pedro, which is actually also accessible by a jeep or truck and is thus a better jumpoff. Here is where you get guides, and we had ours named Ato to join us.

An initial stroll through rice fields and wide roads will take you to a bridge, where the real hike begins. First up was Mt. Tangisan. It is very hot in Tarlac and we felt it from the very start of the hike. Tangisan was quite steep but not really difficult, yet the intense heat of the sun takes its toll. So we relished brief stops in shaded parts of the mountain, which are few and far between! After an hour or so from the bridge we had reached the summit of Mt. Tangisan (491m).
Mt. Tangisan’s peaks are very scenic, offering a closer view of the typical Central Luzon scene, making it complementary to the more macroscopic panorama afforded by Mt. Arayat. Rice fields, rivers and irrigation waterforms characterize the landscape in three directions, but to the west lay the Zambales mountains; we saw the jagged peaks of Sawtooth Mountain (E) but only the slopes of the cloud-covered Mt. Tapulao.
From Mt. Tangisan, we headed down via its southeastern flank to connect to the common trail leading to Bungkol Baka and Kawayan. This side of Tangisan was also quite steep, and we had to lose a few hundred meters, reaching some banana patches and streams. By 1230H, we were at the only water source of the trail, by the stream, and we decided to have lunch there.
After thirty minutes, we headed eastward, following some woodlands before finally emerging up the familiar grassland and sparse shrubberies that characterize the peaks and slopes of the San  Jose mountains. By 1430H, we reached the ‘Junction’ that divides Bungkol Baka and Kawayan.

From there, we assaulted Bungkol Baka, reaching it by 1500H. There are two peaks: the initial one is atop a rocky formation; there is the option to hit the second, higher one, which is probably the highest point in the whole trial system.

From Bungkol Baka, we decided to go for Kawayan, citing the one irrefutable argument of hiking: “Bakit hindi ko pa gagawin e nadyan na? Sayang naman!” It took another hour (and a ‘close encounter’ with a herd of cows before we reached the summit of Kawayan, which stands at 595 MASL. This mountain, which is the southernmost of the three, offers beautiful views of Mt. Arayat and the plains of Tarlac, Pampanga, and Bataan! It’s always nice to spot Arayat (ESE).
From Kawayan, it would take two more hours, so by the time we reached the village, it was already almost 1900H. In all, it was a 10-hour hiking day, but a very rewarding one with three peaks! Back in Brgy. Iba, Vice Mayor Capitulo prepared a very nice dinner for us, and we of course obliged with much gusto! We then went back, and by 0130H I was home in Los Banos.
PinoyMountaineer thanks the GAME-NEST guys who joined us: Chad, John, Tom, Willie “Tribal Governor”, Myk, Lebi, Camelo, Mon, Toybam, and Israel as well as Vice Mayor Capitulo for accommodating us! Till next time! 

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