TOP TEN MOUNTAINS
Take an adventurous tour around the country’s peaks
above the Clouds
THIS ISSUE CELEBRATES ADVENTURE. MOUNTAINEER AND TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER CHRISTIAN REGIS SCALES THE HEIGHTS TO GIVE US THE TOP 10 MOUNTAINS TO CLIMB IN THE PHILIPPINES
“The art of suffering” – this is the phrase most commonly associated with mountaineering. Mountaineers endure days of exhaustion, rough terrain and harsh weather in their attempt to conquer the mountains. Their reasons for putting themselves through these experiences are varied – a commune with nature, a group achievement, or to find personal, even spiritual attainment. Climb a mountain, and suffer with style.
These are currently the top 10 mountains to climb in the Philippines. We’ve listed them in order of difficulty, with level I the easiest, level II being more difficult and level IV the most strenuous.
MOUNT PICO DE LORO, CAVITE - 1
It stands 664 meters above sea level at Maragondon, Cavite, 85 kilometers southwest of Manila. In the 1500s, the Spanish named it Pico de Loro because its rocky summit resembles a parrot’s beak. Today, mountaineers venture there for its unusual plants, animals and stunning summit views: forests, volcanoes and beaches. The southern view is blocked by a huge tower of rock. Climbable, but beware of strong winds.
Getting there: fly to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air then hire an FX taxi for the “Magnetic Hill” at Maragondon, Cavite.
MOUNT DAGULDOL, BATANGAS - 2
Its proximity to Manila, a golf-course-like campsite on the summit and beach at the foot of the mountain make Mount Daguldol one of the country’s most popular mountaineering destinations. If you’re a beachy person but want a taste of mountaineering adventure, this is for you. The trail is gentle and lined with rest stops, friendly locals, soft drinks, Halo-halo, and buko refreshments. Standing at 670 meters tall, it features a stream and waterfalls to cool off. Its summit provides a view of Batangas Strait, the high mountains of Mindoro Island and, to whet your appetite for a swim next day, the beautiful beach.
Getting there: fly to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air. Then, take a bus to Lipa City, Batangas. From there, hire a jeepney for Hugom, San Juan, Batangas
MOUNT PINATUBO, ZAMBALES - 3
In June 1991, the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century obliterated the summit of Mount Pinatubo. From 1,745 meters tall, it now stands at 1,486m. Located at the inter section of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga, the 1991 eruption was the first murmur after a 500 year silence. Billions of tons of volcanic matter spewed from its mouth, creating killer lahar flows in the plains, raining down thick ash as far as Manila, and decreasing the Earth’s temperature by 0.5°C. If not for successful predictions and disaster management, thousands of people might have perished.
It is now a biking and mountaineering destination. The eruption formed astonishing valleys of ash, and a large caldera with a lake covering the terror within.
Getting there: fly to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air, then take a bus to Capas, Tarlac. From there, hire a ride and make your way through the towns of Santa Juliana, then Sitio Dapili.
MOUNT UGU, BENGUET - 4
On the southern portion of the Cordilleras stands Mount Ugu. It became famous when a plane bound for Loakan airport crashed on its slopes back in 1987. Mountaineers who volunteered for the rescue operations found hidden beauty amid the disaster. Since then, many have ventured into the Cordilleras for this 2,086 meter high mountain, found between the municipalities of Itogon, Benguet and Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya. It is frequently visited due to its closeness to Baguio City. Starting from Itogon, you’ll trek through long, dusty and sun-drenched trails until you reach the steep mountain trails overlooking cool valleys of thick pine forests. The summit features the tall mountaintops of the Cordillera, the rolling pine hills of Nueva Vizcaya, and the plains of Pangasinan.
Getting there: fly to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air, then take a bus to Baguio City. From there, hire a jeepney for Itogon, Benguet.
MOUNT PULAG, BENGUET - 5
In the central region of the Cordillera lies the “Playground of the Gods”. The 2,930 meter high Mount Pulag is the third highest mountain in the Philippines and the highest in Luzon. Covering portions of Ben guet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya, it is considered the seat of Igorot tribal culture. It’s only a six-hour drive to the northeast of Baguio City, making it a popular mountaineering and hiking destination. Mountaineers and hikers experience three types of vegetation – cool, dry pine forest at the bottom, dark, mossy forest in the middle and vast grasslands at the summit which provides a spectacular 360° view of the Cordillera. With good weather, you’ll see mountain-tops over a vast ocean of white swirling clouds.
(with several strenuous level III trails). Getting there: fly to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air, then take a bus to Baguio City. From there, hire a jeepney for Kabayan, Benguet.
MOUNT MARIVELES – TARAK RIDGE, BATAAN - 6
Like Mounts Natib and Samat, the slopes of Mount Mariveles were battlefields during the American and Filipino defense of Bataan against Japanese forces in 1942. Situated in the middle of the lower portion of Bataan Peninsula, this 1,288 meter high mountain is a popular mountaineering destination. Climbing the mountain requires a long, hot trek from the foothills to steep upper slopes. Hopefully, you’ll get to cool off from a river-crossing halfway up the mountain. For the final leg, there’s a rocky, windy trail to the campsite and the summit. But once there, enjoy a scenic view of the beaches of Bataan and the South China Sea to the west, Corregidor Islands and Mount Pico de Loro to the south, and Manila Bay, with the distant lights of Manila, to the east.
Getting there: Fly to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air, then take a bus to Mariveles, Bataan.
MOUNT KITANGLAD RANGE, BUKIDNON - 7
At central Mindanao stands a series of high mountains known for their virgin forests, rich biodiversity, and their pineapples! Mount Kitanglad Range at Bukidnon consists of five large mountains, with Mount Dulang-Dulang being the highest at 2,938 meters. Mount Kitanglad Range is home to many species of flora and fauna, notably unusual mossy plants, orchids, brown deer, lizards, cloud rats, and at least 74 avian species, including the Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagle. Kitanglad Range and its surrounding plains are also the ancestral domain of several indigenous people, as well as the Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, the largest in the world. Climbing this mountain requires endurance, a lot of waterproofing, and most of all, a camera.
Getting there: fly to Cagayan de Oro via Cebu Pacific Air. Then hire a jeepney for the municipalities of Sumilao or Lantapan, Bukidnon.
MOUNT APO, DAVAO DEL SUR" - 8
For the Bagobo tribes of Mindanao, “Apo” means “Grandfather”. With a height of 2,954 meters, Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the country. Situated in Davao del Sur, it is a dormant volcano, with three major peaks and a wide volcanic crater containing the crystal clear Lake Venado. Climbing Mount Apo requires hiking through thick mossy forests, steep trails and, most notably, an endless trek up giant rock boulders below the mountain’s summit. Sulphur vents and deposits are silent reminders of the volcanic past deep under Mount Apo. The mountain is home to several species of plants and animals, including the beautiful, but nearly extinct, Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagle.
Getting there: fly to Davao City via Cebu Pacific Air. Then, hire a jeepney for the cities of Digos or Kidapawan.
MOUNT KANLA-ON, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL - 9
The 2,465-meter tall Mount Kanla-on is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Philippines. It is certainly the highest and most active volcano in the Visayas with its craters, cones, sulphuric vents, hot springs, caves, natural gardens and mini-forests. Most prominent are the enormous caldera on the north, and a deep, active crater on the south. This rugged terrain takes its toll on climbers and it was the scene of a fatal eruption in 1996. Despite this, its astonishing scenery, magical flora and fauna and bloody history make Kanla-on the pride of Negros Island.
Getting there: fly to Bacolod or Dumaguete City via Cebu Pacific Air. Then, take a bus for Guintubdan or Wasay jump-off points.
MOUNT GUITING-GUITING, ROMBLON - 10
The ultimate Philippine mountaineering experience lies in the 2,057 meter high Mount Guiting-Guiting. The name means “saw-toothed mountain” because of a series of nearly-vertical, jagged rock-peaks that shred the clouds. After a long hike to the foothills, mountaineers penetrate one of the most biologically diverse forests in the country then stare death in the eye when trekking the 87° slopes and several highly-deceiving summits.
Getting there: Romblon’s Sibuyan Island is reachable by passenger ships from Batangas City (via Manila), Roxas City, and Kalibo, three Cebu Pacific Air destinations.
Mounts Banahaw in Quezon, Mayon in Albay, and Halcon in Mindanao are all excellent mountains for climbing but are currently closed to mountaineers.
Almost all mountains in the Philippines are blemished with the impacts of deforestation, mining and pollution. All mountaineers share an idea of environmental conservation known as LNT, or Leave No Trace. The idea is simple – “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time, LEAVE NO TRACE”. However, not all mountaineers comply. Being a mountaineer does not just require reaching the summit. As a mere visitor to beautiful and dangerous mountains, one is obliged to give full respect.
Remember to carefully plan your climb before even setting one foot on the mountain. As long as you comply with LNT, the mountains will provide you with front-row seats to see God’s art works.
Christian Regis is a member of mountaineering group, the Loyola Mountaineers, who most recently climbed Mount Kanla-on at Negros Occidental.