Mt. Pulag via Tawangan: 12-hours of romancing with leeches and other gross tales

Yaasss! New year, new climbing season, new swarm of cuss words to learn in place of tangina (transl. sonuvabitch). The last one’s a resolution I made two seconds ago after realizing that I threw enough tanginas in our recent Pulag climb via Tawangan–yeah, enough to last the jail time of someone convicted with homicide.

How many times do we have to say it? Putangina, I’ve had it with mountaineering. *Keeps climbing anyway*

Ang saya pa nila o! Pa-inom inom. Y’all be dead the following day! 😀

Now let’s talk about Tawangan because nobody ever talks about it. No, actually, let’s talk about Gina. Gina is a bloodsucking dirtbag and Gina’s kind is in abundance in this beautiful but infested trail. 

Kung hindi lang sila madami, iaadobo ko ‘tong mga hitad na ‘to.

Tawangan, in summary, is: twelve hours of breathtaking scenery, of canopies that will dwarf people, river trekking, and well, leeches (and rain, and cold air, and suffering that’s sagad sa buto, atay, at obaryo).

To our guy friends, getting bitten by a leech is like having a period. Ayan sya, dugo lang ng dugo. But the period blood, you have to make salo. So swerte pa rin kayo. Lol.

Believe me when I say, this place is so close to magic.


See what I mean? I think it’s ideal for most first timers to use the Ambangeg trail, but I had the misfortune of going with a bunch of mountaineers who are looking for trouble. (Cue: Tangina mo, TL Thet Pajarillo! Hahaha!) 

To the left is Team Leader Thet. Ano bang hugot mo? Ano ba gusto mong patunayan? You know, I barely tasted those Ritz Chips. 😀

The trek started at 5:30 AM in the sleepy village of—you guessed it right—Tawangan. Up to the second hour, it was a steady walk with a few river crossings, until we got deep enough to reach the wet core of the leech kindgom.

We were still doing okay at around 6:30 AM. Natutunaw pa lang ang breakfast, maraming lakas, confident that we can reach the Saddle Camp in 10 hours. We were so wrong, beshiecakes.
Then the trek started getting a bit harder, enough to remind us of the fun fun fun times at Mt. Candalaga late last year.
Action shot! That guy with a white pack is UL legend Cecile Morella. Panis kayong lahat!

Around 1:30 PM, fatigue had set in. We had to do a short meeting to decide whether we’d still gun for the Saddle or just head to the nearer Camp 2 and get some fucking coffee. It rained for the most part of the afternoon and we were wearing some 50-peso ponchos that broke easily, so the prospect of having a roof on our heads seemed super attractive.

We were so drained by the time we reached the grassland. Zombie walk na mga kapatid. Pero may pictures pa rin.

Gwapo pa rin, o ha! That’s Rio Hernandez, certified AMCI Tito, the owner of most of the photos used in this entry.
Love team ng bayan at Junior Pulag!
Pulag via Tawangan
That’s Troy singing Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. Kidding, IDK WTF is happening. Hahaha!

Did we make it to the Saddle? Well, no. We settled at Camp 2 and huddled at the guides’ hut–it was empty on Sunday evening, thank yeezus. At 7-ish we back to being jolly people with rice on our mess kits and vodka + tequila on the side.

In truth, I wanted to go and trek to the summit at 3AM the following day but a super bad hangover (kasalanan ko ‘to, I know haha), a persistent fever, and a swollen right foot kept me from leaving the comfort of my bivy. Gusto ko na lang magpa-stretcher pababa, pero ma-pride ako, so trek poles na lang. Hahaha! 

To the guys who summited, congratulations! Fresh nila o, pero basa medyas ng mga yan! ❤

Mt. Pulag Summit
6/17 with the Pulag first-timers not even here. Wagi! 😀

Meanwhile in camp: fried rice before breaking camp and heading down via Ambangeg. Salamat tito Rio Hernandez for the photos! Sa uulitin. 😀



Let’s not get piggy: Mt. Gulugod Baboy, Mabini, Batangas

I tried looking back at all the climbs I had in the last six months and realised that none of them was as chill as last weekend’s. Thanks to master-planner, boss Anna P., our ragtag team of libag-eating, kaladkarin, mountain noobs summited Mt. Gulugod Baboy and managed to spend an afternoon horsing around, eating excessive amounts of spicy squid at Sombrero Island.

Mr. Gulugod Baboy

Basic Data

Jump-off point: Philpan Dive Resort, Anilao, Mabini
LLA: 13°42’55″N; 120°53’43″E; 525 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: Half-day / 1-2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-2

I think this mountain (or hill) is suited for trail running (now, if only I had a pair of light, mid-range Salomons)–you have no slippery rocks, a lot of mild ascents, a nice paved road for a headstart, and some dogs / goats / cats you’ll meet along the way to keep your cardiac muscles all cool. The take-off is so benign that some guys say you can even drive up to the first peak with a 4×4 but hey, where’s the fun in that!

It’s easy to get excited if you get a view like this after just 10 to 15 minutes of hiking. The peak promises more–a perfect picture of the Balayan and Batangas bays, a fraction of the Verde Island Passage, and this tiny island the shape of a hat (or a boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant, whichever works). But, as you can see, we were all for some sort of delayed gratification, so we made a lot of stops. And took photos. 😀

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There are a few things, though, that didn’t quite sit well with me, cute animals aside. The amount of traffic and trash (mineral water bottles and straws in particular) in this mountain is rather alarming. I asked our guide if there is someone, some organisation who cleans up every now and then, and she said, none, the mountaineers do the hauling (but this is something I didn’t see, and some “mountaineers” might just be doing the opposite).

If you are considering a quick day hike at Mt. Gulugod Baboy, I encourage you to bring some extra trash bags and do some cleaning.

Imagine if they close the mountain up if the trash problem goes out of control–this view would be off limits to you.

Sombrero Island

It’s a 30-minute boat ride from the jump-off, a popular side-trip to the underwater-loving Anilao peeps. Truth: nothing to do here but chill, chill, and drink some beer. Some online guides would say you can go snorkeling and that’s fine, but the waves get pretty damn intimidating in the afternoon. By intimidating, I mean they crash hard and move the boats by meters.

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Cottages can be rented at P800.00 each. There’s also a changing room / CR nearby, but no shower. As expected, the keepers also collected a P200.00 fee per head and we don’t know this fee goes, but let’s all hope it’s for the conservation of the island. 😀

Up for a  similar itinerary? You can do this in a day between 4 AM to 9 PM, but brace yourself (I was so tired I fell asleep eating chicharap, when we were on the way home). And finally, here’s a photo of the crew. Next time, we’ll have a tarp with a legit logo. Haha!

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