Dream big and aim high. I want to go to heaven without dying. I want to reach the sky without flying.
I want to feel the cold winter air without leaving the tropical warmth of my country. So I decide to join a group of mountain climbers and set my foot on my way to Benguet where the majestic Mt. Pulag is located. I was about to go to Sagada, a town where the famous rice terraces is located.
Then a friend of mine invited me to join his group traveling north of the Philippines to hike which I thought will be the same route to Sagada. But, the distance between Kabayan, Benguet and Sagada is about three hours away with the 2nd highest mountain in between. I decided joining them instead and prepare myself to the journey to the stairway to heaven.
I prepare for the hike to Mt. Pulag by physical training. Leg workouts like running and going to the gym. The group have checklist, I make sure to get all the things I need so that I will not be a liability. As the day is near for us to leave, I feel the hesitation on going because it will be my first time to go on hiking and camping in the mountains.
I’ve been to many places but never been in the mountain because all of my trips usually includes accommodation and perks. But this time, I am alone so I need to feed myself, get my things ready, push my body to its limits and taking care of myself all the time.
The day has finally come, I set my backpack and start my way to the sky. The group met in a fast-food in Cubao, Quezon City. Gathering to brief for our venture and providing our aids on our way up. We ride the bus going to Baguio City, that trip is about 6 hours. At 4:00 o’clock in the morning, we reached Baguio City and prepare our way to Kabayan, Benguet.
We ride the PUJ (Public Utility Jeep) going to the DENR office for the hike briefing provided by the government. On the way, we have one stop over where we ate. The weather is nice but I am chattering due to the cold weather. It is not an easy ride way up because the zigzag road will make you nauseated. We drive for 4 hours to the briefing site and the rangers camp from Baguio City.
From Manila to Baguio to Kabayan took us 10 – 12 hours which includes stop-over. It is a very tiring trip but my eyes were fed by the beautiful scene in 360 degrees. Everywhere looks so fresh and magnificent to the eyes. I took many pictures to remember this once in a lifetime journey. This is the first step we need to take before we reach the sea of clouds where the Gods belong and play (as local belief).
From rangers camp in Kabayan, Benguet. We start by preparing our things and gear up to the mountains. It is 11:00 o’clock in the morning, as we start our journey at the top. There are lots of other hikers going down, greeting us good luck and smiles. They look so tired and want to run down in order to rest but they seemingly happy on what they saw up there. My backpack is heavy, around 20kg to 30kg all weight on my shoulders and hips. At first I am excited to walk because the first 2 km trail is easy and smooth with limited upward slope. But after 1 hour trekking, this comes the challenge started.
It is not easy to climb on a 30 – 60 degrees slope. My sweat beats the wintry weather. My breathing became harsh and hard as we ascend. We took a couple of rest period because it is tiring and we need to give way to people who are coming down since there is only one trail to walk with. This the first time I hike, I don’t know if I want to go back and stay home. My legs are weakening as we step up further, reaching camp 1. All of us are tired from the 12 hours trip. Some of us came from work and slept on the way to Kabayan.
I am uncomfortable because my bag is killing my shoulders. My lungs are out of air. My hands are trembling because of the cold. But my head is sweating profusely. I am thinking that I might pass out anytime because I feel differently. After an hour or so, we reached camp 1 where we rest and took our lunch. Under the tree, feeling the grass on my feet, the sun is shining above . The cold air pass through my jacket and under shirts, I took a nap and rest my body for few minutes.
After the quick nap, I am energize and ready to continue the journey way up. We still have 2 hours trek for the camp site where we will sleep and rest before hitting the summit during dawn. This time the trail is more difficult and assault is now often. Every now and then, we take rest. I am amaze by the biodiversity surrounding me. I can feel the damp, wet and cold when we pass by the mossy trail. The place is green and brown, walking one foot away from a cliff. Once you trip, you’ll chase your life away. Even though, we thank heavens for not raining. It was a dry terrain, cold yet manageable, fresh air and spirit that cannot be unfolded.
We reached camp 2 in less than 2 hours, settling our things and putting up tent for us to rest until dawn before we go to the summit and watch the sunrise. It was around 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I was exhausted because of the long travel and the trek. But my eyes were not starving because of the beauty I see. This is the grassland camp where short bamboo grows, the mist is very visible and the cold is creeping through my sweaty skin. After the tents were set up, I immediately took a nap to refresh my mind and body before taking dinner. I am so tired, once I had my back landed on my sleeping mat I went on a dreamless slumber.
I woke up with people chattering around me. The temperature drop and I can’t feel my freezing hands. I can now feel starvation and happy to see my friends cooking something for dinner. Dinner was served and we ate in lightning speed. After the ransacked dinner, we socialized, talked about the trip and what will happened next. It is my first time hiking and going with this guys so this is the chance for me and for them to know something about ourselves. The drinking session last and its time to hit the sack. I slept early because I want full energy for tomorrow’s event. Reaching the summit.
In the middle of the night, I finding myself tossing and turning due to the cold that is hitting my core. It was one of the dreadful experience in my life, the temperature drop to 3 degrees according to my colleague. Not even the 7 shirts, 2 jackets and a blanket protected me on the deadly cold. This is very cold for us since our normal weather temperature is 32 – 36 degrees. I thought I will freeze to death during the battle against lower temperature. I decide to get up around 1:30 in the morning because I can no longer tolerate the cold. Some of my friends are already up because we are experiencing the same turmoil of the weather.
All of us are up before 4:00 am and we decide on starting the assault towards the summit. We geared ourselves with flashlights, cameras, jackets and trail foods to survive the last trail to the top of the mountain. We trek for about an hour or so before reaching the summit. All the energy I consume and the effort to go all the way here was paid off by the scene my eyes and camera captured. It was a daydream picture of the world, it is one of the wonderful sight I ever seen in my entire life. The orange-yellow horizon with the sea of clouds casting the entire skyline is dream-like. I am intoxicated by the scene, it is like I am in a different universe. This beauty is worth climbing and put in your life with. I cannot compare its beauty to anything else in this world. I feel like a new-born who manage to see the light for the first time.
When the sun rises from the east, it is a fascinating view and everything is a gallantry came from the gods. The view at the top is one of the most gorgeous landscape my eyes laid upon. The sun beams towards are cold body and frigid soul. The warmth of the sun, the breathtaking view fills our eyesight and completed our escapade perfectly. The best moment is we share the same high with all other hikers. All you can see is smiles on our faces, nobody grim about how hard it is to go up here. Everything is paid by the sea of clouds and the heaven-like picture. It is like me and the gods are only a few meters away. Walking on the same path and touching each others existence. The best of the best.
After 2 hours of staying on the summit, we hurried down to prevent human traffic upon descending from the top. We went back to the camp site to eat and ready our packs for us to go down. Around 11:00 in the morning, we set our heighten spirit down, it is time to go home and upload those picture, share the experience and give information to other about this magnificent place to go. I will never forget this escapade, one of the greatest place to visit. Mt. Pulag Summit is truly one of the Philippines’ amazing spots to go. I feel proud that I was able to conquer and survived the Mt Pulag SAGA.
How to get there:
From Metro Manila there are several alternatives to get to Kabayan, Benguet.
How I get in there. I was invited by a friend to be part of their club hike in Mt. Pulag.
Manila to Baguio via Bus
Victory Liner fare: Php445
Baguio to Kabayan, Benguet: Private Jeepney Roundtrip
Cost: Php6000 for 10-15 pax
2 h 8 min (81.8 km) via Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road and Gurel-Bokod-Kabayan-Buguias-Abatan Rd (source: google maps)
Manila to Baguio to Kabayan Benguet. Travel time: 6-8 hours.
Commuting to Ranger Station in Kabayan, Benguet from Baguio City
As I checked, there are public jeepneys and bus going to Atok and Kabayan Benguet. I am still researching the routes, fare and additional information on how to get there alone. I will update once I had details. I will be in Sagada on December 25, 2014 and I will checked when we stop over to Baguio.
Travel Agencies, touring group and Clubs
There are numerous agency and outdoor clubs holding trip to Mt. Pulag. Catering the transportation, food, mountaineering gears and stuff needed on the hike. Expense will depend on number of hikers. You can join on touring group if your going solo. You can check various package in facebook, websites and mountain climbing clubs.
Tour Package Cost: Php 2000-2800 for 4-15 pax
Manila to Kabayan Benguet via Baguio (Private Van)