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Visiting Pamulaklakin Forest Trail in Subic

R and I decided to go for a nature trip on our fourth anniversary, and with some help from our friend Google, we ended up giving the Pamulaklakin Forest Trail a try.

What is the Pamulaklakin Forest Trail?

Named after the Pamulaklakin vine that grows in abundance in the area, the Pamulaklakin Forest Trail is one of the many routes that have been used for training by the US Army during the American Colonial Period, with the aetas as their teachers. The aetas taught them valuable lessons on how to survive in the jungle, and shared their vast knowledge of flora and fauna in the area. Up until today, the aetas take the lead in protecting the site and are sharing their expertise through tours organized in partnership with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

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This is what you call organic shampoo!

We had a GREAT time doing the two-hour ecology tour, with our guide, Menmen, showing us a glimpse of the richness of the forest.

Here are some tips to help you organize your trip:

Official name: Pamulaklakin Forest Trail

Address:

How to get there: Via private vehicle, navigate towards Pamulaklakin Forest. There’s a large sign at the entrance with the name of the place, so it’s difficult to miss.

Before starting with your trail tour: You need to register at the jump-off point with the guide on duty. There is no mark that says “registration,” but it is pretty straightforward to find since there is just one table in front of the stores with a lady with a notebook.

Fees are as follows (as of March 2018):

  • PHP 100/person (entrance fee for sightseeing or picnic)
  • PHP 100/person (mini-jungle tour: goes for 30 minutes, inclusive of a local guide)
  • PHP 250/person (ecology tour: goes for 2-3 hours, inclusive of a local guide)

Important reminders:

  1. The trail is family and beginner-friendly, so do not worry about boulders and slippery slopes along the trail.
  2. Although there is a rich water source along the trail, it is still best to bring water that you know you are comfortable to drink.
  3. There is a small local store at the jump-off point where you can purchase water, sports drinks, soft drinks, chips, candies, and cookies.
  4. Toilets are not available along the trail. They are only available at the jump-off point.
  5. Please bring a plastic bag for your own trash. It’s unfortunate that many visitors leave their trash along the trails. As any responsible hiker would know, what you bring to the trail, you must also bring with you when you get back.
  6. Please don’t haggle with the local guides’ prices. Many guides have this as their sole source of income. If you’re doing budget travel, save on other areas of your trip, not on the guides’ fees.

Why you must consider a trip to Pamulaklakin Forest: The forest offers the best of all worlds: trails and the fresh stream that offer a sense of comfort, young and old trees that protect you from the heat, and humbling insights on how the aetas utilize and preserve what nature has to offer.

P.S. The keys to sustainable hikes are universal (lifted from The Leave No Trace Behind program):  plan ahead and prepare | travel and camp on durable surfaces | dispose of waste properly | leave what you find | minimize campfire impacts | respect wildlife | be considerate of other visitors | listen to your gut ❤

If you have other questions about this trip, do not hesitate to contact me 🙂

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Hiking Mt. Arayat in Pampanga

A little reflection…

I had the opportunity to hike Mt. Arayat for the first time last January 20, 2018. Since then, I’ve hiked it three more times (January 26, 31, and February 16). My brothers always ask me, “Why do you keep on going back?”

The answer to this question is simple: Because there is always something new to see, feel, taste, hear, and smell every time I visit.

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Wish I had this view for lunch every time.

I haven’t climbed many mountains (landform, not on a personal level, because if we talk about the latter I’ve come across so many of that haha!) in my 28 years of existence, and I’m glad I’ve discovered this connection this year. Before Mt. Arayat, I got to hike for a fair bit, yet because of my outlook back then, I didn’t get to appreciate these trips as I do now.

Interestingly, I find it more difficult to climb mountains these days compared to when I first started doing it in 2012. I still run regularly, but I guess it is gravity and poor nutrition taking over. However, even with this internal challenge, I look forward than ever before on taking these hikes. I guess in life if something clicks at the right time and space, then it will stick, no matter how much you want to push it against the puzzle.

Now, enough of me.

Let’s get down to business on how you can plan your trip! 🙂

Official name of mountain: Mt. Arayat

Address: Barangay Baño, Arayat, Pampanga

How to get there: Via private vehicle, navigate towards Mt. Arayat National Park, then go past the park’s entrance towards “Treetop.”

Before starting with your hike: You need to register at the jump-off point with the guides on duty.

Fees are as follows (as of March 2018):

  • PHP 30/person (environmental fee)
  • PHP 700 for up to 5 people for South Peak (local guide fee)
  • PHP 1,500 for up to 5 people for Pinnacle (local guide fee)
  • PHP 1,750 for up to 5 people for North Peak (local guide fee)

Important reminders:

  1. There is no water source at Mt. Arayat. You have to bring enough water to sustain your entire hike.
  2. It is going to be hot on the first hour of the hike because of Mt. Arayat’s open areas, so wearing a cap or hat, and light long sleeves or arm sleeves is a must.
  3. Toilets are not available along the trail. They are only available at the jump-off point.
  4. There is a small local store at the jump-off point where you can purchase water, Gatorade, chips, and candies.
  5. Please bring a plastic bag for your own trash. It’s unfortunate that many hikers leave their trash along the trails. As any responsible hiker would know, what you bring to the summit, you must also bring with you when you get back.
  6. Please don’t haggle with the local guides’ prices. Many guides have this as their sole source of income. If you’re doing budget travel, save on other areas of your trip, not on the guides’ fees.

Why you must consider a trip to Mt. Arayat: Mt. Arayat, a protected virgin forest, is home to thousands of flora and fauna species. If you are lucky, you will come across monkeys wading on the sides of the trail, or the Philippine Eagle’s majestic songs. What an experience!

P.S. The keys to sustainable hikes are universal (lifted from The Leave No Trace Behind program):  plan ahead and prepare | travel and camp on durable surfaces | dispose of waste properly | leave what you find | minimize campfire impacts | respect wildlife | be considerate of other visitors | listen to your gut ❤

If you have other questions about this trip, do not hesitate to contact me 🙂

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Why It’s OK to Leave Your Camera Behind

Early this year, my friends and I went to Tingloy Island, Batangas for a two-day-one-night trip. We had the chance to catch up on our lives and to talk about our plans. And more than anything, we also spent time basking in the serenity of being away from the mainland.

It was quite a long trip, with a one-hour bus ride to Batangas Grand Terminal, a one-hour drive to Mabini Port, and a one-hour boat ride to Tingloy Island. It was quite a spur-of-the-moment trip where we planned our entire trip just one week before.

The unexpected hike

My friend J and I decided to walk around the area after lunch, while my friend M stayed along the beach to read a book.

From a view of a calm and waveless sea, we were greeted with rows of lush rice fields, freshly made bamboo huts, and Eurasian tree sparrows ready to dive for grains. It was such an awesome feeling to be caught in between the sea and these beautiful rice fields without having to compromise on which path to choose. We were there, in the middle of it all, allowing ourselves to enjoy the best of both worlds.

As we walked around the area, we decided to explore further afield and set our eyes on this gentle peak, Mt. Mag-asawang Bato (The Couple Rock Mountain). My friend J was wearing a dress and flip-flops, and I was wearing my swimwear and flip-flops, too.

I was a bit wary at first since we didn’t have a guide, having left all our things behind including our money and– gasp!– mobile phones. At this point, I have never experienced hiking without being ready, so this is a first. But then I thought, I am with my friend anyway…

Hiking without a working camera in tow

So, we hiked without anything else other than the clothes and flip-flops hugging our bodies, our water bottles, and my friend’s defective camera. At first, I felt incomplete without a camera in tow. It would have been nice to document our little adventure. How I wish I could take pictures of these views, and replayed these thoughts in my head over and over again.

But as we continued with our hike, I did my best to simply let go: to let go of my needless wants and self-doubts. Although it wasn’t easy, I chose to take a closer look at the views I see. I never thought it would be THAT difficult to remember something so beautiful. It was way easier to just let a camera capture things, rather than me making an effort to make sense of the moment.

Savoring the view

As we reached the first peak, I learned, for the very first time, to try to remember everything I’m seeing. I don’t have a pen and paper to guide me, nor a camera to capture the moment. I only have my sense of sight, smell, hearing, feeling, and taste to guide me.

Weeks after that camera-less hike, I could still picture in my head many memories of that hike, to that moment that we reached the first peak, and up until the time we reached our friend M back to the shore. Surprisingly, what initially felt like “nothing” now turned into “everything.”

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Mt. Mag-asawang Bato, one of Tingloy Island’s many iconic peaks

Looking back, I’m glad for that off-the-grid experience. Albeit short, it gave me an idea as to how liberating it feels to get face-to-face with nature. Although I cheated with bringing my water bottle, it was my first time to hike without a mobile phone and camera, and I intend to do it again.