What Is and What's Not in Calaguas

Here's a little guide to help you manage your expectations on the island. Knowing what to expect, and not, will help you make the most of your trip to this paradise!

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Beauty Born Out of Destruction

As soon as I emerged from the trail, a magnificent beauty greeted me. Exhausted after a 1-hour-45-minute trek, the view was a pleasant reward. Who would have thought that this beautiful landscape was ironically created by destruction? It was simply beautiful.

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What is BRATpacking?

Everyone's familiar with the life of a backpacker -- those who live on a backpack to travel the world for long months, even years. They have the reputation of being grungy, spontaneous, friendly.

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Picking Our Way to Pico de Loro

I am not (yet!) a climbing enthusiast. In fact, this is my first real climb, as I consider my first two experiences of mountains as "treks" (Taal Volcano in 2005 and Sagada to Bomod-ok Falls in 2007). This is also my first camping trip as an adult, and I was worried that I wouldn't like it because of the absence of a toilet, shower, soft bed, nice linens, and all the other things that make life comfortable.

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

It was love at first sight. That kind of love that makes you feel lost, and yet you know you're home. That kind of love that overwhelms you with emotions, and yet you feel serene. That kind of love that makes you feel like a fool, and yet you don't care. This is my favorite spot on earth, where the place is enchanting and the people are endearing.

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Join The BRATpacker


Thursday, February 3, 2011

BRAT What?!

Everyone's familiar with the life of a backpacker -- those who live on a backpack to travel the world for long months, even years. They have the reputation of being grungy, spontaneous, friendly. And, well, cheap. They find the cheapest backpacker's hostel, crash in a 20-people dorm-type accommodation, cook their own food, wear the same shirt for days, and forget to (or intend not to) shower for days. They live a hippie-happy lifestyle.

Photo Source: http://www.killrob.co.uk

While this is still the trend among college or fresh-out-of-university people, a growing number of other travelers follow the backpacker's lifestyle with a little bit of indulgence -- traveling without giving up your basic comfort and chic style. BACKPACKING WITH A LITTLE BIT OF BRAT. They look for budget-friendly accommodation, but don't squeeze themselves in a cramped dorm. They love street food as much as fine dining cuisine. They enjoy budget airlines as much as first class sleeper trains. They travel with a trolley luggage to chic cities, and sport a backpack for rough outdoor adventure. They wear ballerina flats for wandering around, and trekking shoes for serious walks. They are armed with the latest gadgets -- a handsome DSLR, a powerful phone with GPS and wifi, an iPod, and a laptop to sync everything and stay connected with the world.

Photo Source: Essential Travel Insurance Review
Photo Source: KK+ Flickr Photostream

But despite the differences, a backpacker and a bratpacker both choose to discover the world. Whatever travel lifestyle you prefer, the most important thing is you take all the beauty in -- it doesn't matter if it's a crowded street, an exotic tradition, a quiet culture or a scenic landscape. Life is too short to lose the moment, so make sure you make time to learn the ways of the world -- there is just too much to absorb!

at the summit of Pico de Loro, Philippines
January 2011
trek to Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines
February 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pico de Loro: Budget and Essentials

See Also:

Picking Our Way to Pico de Loro
Pico de Loro Itinerary and Driving Directions

For a minimal expense, you can enjoy a 360º panoramic view atop a mountain!  Well, that, and some passion for hardwork :)


Below is our budget for our Pico de Loro trip:

P  75.00  Bus Fare - Manila to Ternate
P  75.00  Tricycle Fare - Ternate to DENR (P75.00 x 4 pax = P300/trip)
P  20.00  Registration - DENR jump-off point
P  20.00  Registration - Base Camp 1
P  75.00  Tricycle Fare - DENR to Bus Terminal
P  75.00  Bus Fare - Ternate to Manila
P100.00  Packed Lunch
P300.00  Miscellaneous food (trail food, canned goods, water, bread)
P740.00  TOTAL (approx. US$17)


Although I am still trying to become a real hiker, below are what I have identified as essentials in climbing Pico de Loro especially if you are spending the night there:


Trail food - those that can give you an energy boost, or just fill an empty stomach i.e. granola bars, jelly, nuts, chocolate

Pack - Choose the pack that is right for your build and the amount of things you are bringing.  I brought a 30L The North Face pack, which was enough for all my knickknacks.  Take note that I didn't bring my own tent.

Sleeping bag/earth pad - The ground was really cold for the back!

Beltbag - This is handy for easy access to your phone, camera, money, and some trail food.

Headlamp - Very important, as there will be no other source of light in the mountain except whatever you bring with you.

Water - I carried 4 liters, which was just enough for the ascent and descent

Food - canned goods, instant noodles, rice

Others - camera, sunblock lotion, hat, trekking pole, flashlight

For Sharing/Group

Tent - Some tents are good for 2, 3 or 4 persons.  Make sure to coordinate who's bringing the tent to ensure that everyone will have a shelter during the cold night.

Cook set - If you wish to have coffee or a warm soup in the mountain, this is a must.

Stove & butane

Garbage bag - Remember to bring your trash with you!

See Also:


Pico de Loro: Itinerary and Driving Directions

See also:
Picking Our Way to Pico de Loro
Pico de Loro Budget and Essentials

Mt. Pico de Loro is good for a weekend climb, whether for a day hike or for overnight camping.  We chose the latter, as we wanted to do socials and at the same time, recharge before going down.

Here is the itinerary that we followed, courtesy of our colleague Tiano Vargas who put together everything:



0800 Board bus from Baclaran for Ternate, Cavite
1000 ETA Ternate town proper; rent tricycle to Magnetic Hill
1030 ETA DENR/jump-off point
1100 Start trek.  Note that jump-off point is 10 minutes walk away from DENR
1145 ETA Base Camp 1, rest for LUNCH
1215 Start trek to campsite
1500 ETA campsite, pitch tent
1530 Assault to summit
1540 ETA summit
1745 Descent to campsite
1800 Dinner
1700 Socials


0700 Wake up call, prepare for breakfast
0800 Breakfast
0830 Breakcamp, prepare for descent
0900 Start descent to Magnetic Hill
1230 ETA DENR (wash up, light meal)
1400 ETD for Bus Terminal (via tricycle)
1430 ETD to Manila
1500 ETA Manila

Directions via SLEX

If bringing your own car, we followed these instructions when we went back three days later to save the mountain dog:

1.  From EDSA, take South Super Highway.

2.  Exit at Carmona/Binan - the highway (Governor's Drive) will simply take you straight all the way to Naic (passing through the towns of Carmona, GMA, Dasmarinas, Trece Martires and General Trias).

3.  At Naic, turn left toward Ternate/Maragondon (signposts will lead you).

4.  Just keep straight.  From Naic onward, just follow the larger roads -- these lead to Puerto Azul.  You'll pass through a tree-lined highway in Maragondon flaked on both sides by rice paddies.

5.  A welcome sign in Pidgin Spanish (Bienvenido a Ternate) will welcome you to Ternate -- just keep on straight.  The highway will fork -- take the left one (the road on the right leads to the poblacion of Ternate).

6.  From thereon, the highway ascends to a giant rocky mountain which leads to Puerto Azul.

7.  Keep on driving until you see the DENR compound to your left.

Directions via Coastal Road

Alternatively, this may also be taken as a shorter route:

1.  From EDSA, go straight to Macapagal Ave. (going to MOA).  Turn left at Macapagal Ave.  Go straight until the end of Macapagal Ave. then turn left to Coastal Road.

2.  Coastal Road will bring you to Aguinaldo Highway in Cavite.  Take the Aguinaldo Highway until SM Bacoor.  Turn right to Kawit, Cavite.  At Binakayan, Kawit, turn right at the road going to Island Cove. 

3.  Follow the road going to Cavite PEZA.  It is the main road so you won't get lost.  Go straight to Naic, Cavite.

4.  Take the road to Ternate, Cavite after Naic and this road will lead you to Puerto Azul.

HINT:  Follow the road where the buses are going after your turn at SM Bacoor.


Cover: Picking Our Way To Pico de Loro

Climb Date:  January 22-23, 2011

Novice Climber

I am not (yet!) a climbing enthusiast.  In fact, this is my first real climb, as I consider my first two experiences of mountains as "treks" (Taal Volcano in 2005 and Sagada to Bomod-ok Falls in 2007).  This is also my first camping trip as an adult, and I was worried that I wouldn't like it because of the absence of a toilet, shower, soft bed, nice linens, and all the other things that make life comfortable.  But with the promise of an opportunity to take landscape photos, I gave in.

Pico de Loro
Ternate, Cavite
Major Jump-off:  Magnetic Hill, Ternate
LLA: 14º 12.855 N; 120º 38.785 E; 664 MASL
Specs:  Minor Climb / Difficulty:  3/9 / Trail Class:  1-3

Mt. Pico de Loro is located in Ternate, Cavite, roughly a 2 1/2-hour drive south of Manila.  Forming a group of 10, we boarded a bus bound for Ternate across Baclaran Church.  Upon reaching Ternate, we hired a tricycle for a 30-minute ride to the jump-off point.  We registered at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) compound, and after freshening up and using the toilet, we started the hike to the peak of Mt. Pico de Loro.

Base Camp 1

The climb was relatively easy.  The trail is covered with nice foliage, providing shade throughout the hike.  There are some areas where the soil is slippery, drenched by the heavy rains the night before.  After about 45 minutes, we reached Base Camp 1 where we had our packed lunch.  Tables and benches are available, and the soft breeze of the mountains can already be felt.


After a 30-minute break, we resumed our hike.  We made several stops along the way, maybe a little too many for the seasoned hikers.  Although the trail is shaded by trees, the ascending hike tires the heart easily.  The trail features a few fallen trees, a dry river bed, a few boulders that had to be scaled, some interesting trees and a lot of ascending topography.


We got to the campsite after about three hours of hiking from Base Camp 1.  As our climb was on a weekend, the main campsite where the Parrot's Beak can be seen is already packed with early birds.  We settled for the second best, which is an area surrounded by bamboo trees just below the main site.

As this is my first camping trip, I had to share with my pal's tent.  I didn't know that pitching a tent is quite easy and can be done in less than five minutes!  After settling our packs in our tent, we proceeded to the assault of the peak.


For someone with extreme fear of heights, the assault to the summit was hard.  The climb was steep that you have to be practically crawling on the ground, gripping the grasses on the side of the trail for support.  Physically, this is not a problem for me.  But upon seeing the steep ravines on both sides, my knees began shaking!  It took a lot of convincing for me to proceed to the peak.

Reaching the peak, all the efforts were well worth it.  The view was simply beautiful!  Slapped by strong winds while taking in the 360º panoramic view of the nearby towns and coastlines, one can only be amazed at how good it feels to be attuned with nature.

The Parrot's Beak (Pico de Loro)

Some of my friends decided to scale the second peak, which is the Parrot's Beak -- Pico de Loro itslef.  I decided not to join them, because the trail gets even steeper, and the beak itself -- the phallic symbol for some -- is a monument of solid rock erected at the edge of the mountain!  It took about 20 minutes before we saw our friends emerge at the second peak -- and boy were they proud to be up there!

Sunset from the mountain was breathtaking.  I rarely see the sunset in the city without any pollution dilution, or buildings to cover its golden hues.  We were lucky to have a clear view of the sun getting down.

Camping the Night Away

We had to use our headlamps while going down to the campsite.  The trick is to go down crawling, with your butt on the ground and your hands gripping the grass again for support.  The night was spent consuming our mountain-cooked meals and socializing.


The next day, some of my colleagues went back to the peak hoping to catch the sunrise.  When they came back, they had a sorry look on their face, because the fog was too thick they couldn't see anything!

After breakfast, we packed for our descent.  We were feeling high, maybe because everyone had a good time.  We rested at the Base Camp 1 again to grab some ice-cold sodas being sold by the couple who runs the place.  We also left our trash at the pit.

Getting Lost

We thought we were beating our time of four hours (inclusive of breaks and take 5's) when we went up, so we hurriedly resumed hiking back to Ternate.  Ten minutes later, we noticed that we were walking on a trail that we were not familiar with -- we searched for the right one until we realized that we were lost when two other groups declared that they don't know the way anymore!  We decided to backtrack, and luckily found the right way just after the fallen tree by the dry creek.  We should have turned left towards an ascending trail, rather than going straight on a wide rocky trail.

As soon as we hit the paved road, our knees were trembling from exhaustion!  The ride back to Manila was quiet, maybe because everyone was dead tired.  

It was definitely a great climb and a nice getaway from the comforts of the city!



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