This trip is almost perfect. Almost.
We have the weather that everyone hoped for and we got to see what we want to see.
14th Feb 2014
Landed in NAIA with about an hour late due to late take off from Changi.
However when I clear the immigration, the office did not ask for it.
After clearing immigration, I went to claim my luggage which is already on the carousel.
Since it is still early, I waited at the terminal for the time to past. At the meantime, I look for places to top up my SMART SIM card. All places I approached only offer at least P300 top up where I only need P100.
In the arrival hall, there is only GLOBE kiosk and the queue is very long. SMART is nowhere to be seen.
At around 0600hrs, I walk to the yellow taxi stand. I noticed that the P20 bus to EDSA is operational again which is good news to me.
The yellow taxi queue is zero. So I get a taxi easily and told the driver to bring me to Sun Cruise terminal. I ask him again does he know the way and he said he knows. Thinking that this building is quite prominent, every taxi driver should know the way and I even show him the map.
However the taxi drop me off at National Theater. I verify with him is this really the place because I know it isn’t. The driver insists it is the right place. So I just get down and decide to find my way there.
I asked around for directions and finally found the terminal.
The airport taxi standard seems to be dropping. I am very disappointed with that.
When I reach the Sun Cruise terminal, there is already a queue form. My destination? It is none other than Corregidor Island which I usually called it the tadpole island.
“Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is an island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of Manila Bay and the City of Manila from attacks by enemy warships in the event of war. Located 48 kilometres (30 mi) inland, Manila has been the largest city and the most important seaport in the Philippines for centuries, from the colonial rule of Spain, Japan and the United States, to the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines in 1946.
Corregidor (Fort Mills) is the largest of the islands that formed the harbor defenses of Manila Bay together with El Fraile Island (Fort Drum), Caballo Island (Fort Hughes) and Carabao Island (Fort Frank), which were all fortified during the American liberation of the country. The island was also the site of a small military airfield, as part of the defense.
During World War II, Corregidor played an important role during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces. Heavily bombarded in the latter part of the war, the ruins left on the island serve as a military memorial to American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers who served or lost their lives on the island. Corregidor is one of the important historic and tourist sites in the country.”
You will have to queue to register to get a sticker. The sticker will display your vehicle number and your seat number on the boat.
After that you can board the boat once the boat is ready.
The ride to Corregidor Island is about 2 hours. I fell asleep most of the time despite the TV is blaring the history of the island.
When we reach Corregidor, our transport is already waiting for us. You will just need to look for your transport number and hop on. It is a very organised trip and you will not get lost.
I actually cannot remember the sequence of the sights that the guide brought us but despite many tourist, they try not to crowd a sight with too many tourist at one time. I must admit they do a pretty good job in this.
After being bombarded left and right by everyone during the war, I do not expect to see any complete building on the island.
I also like the island itself not because of its history but due to the small population on the island during the tour, the island feel so tranquil. With the sea breeze blowing, you will really forget the hustle of Manila.
Our guide, Jen is also good. I can feel that she spoke with passion about the island. Through her, I understand that she is only on the job for a year and most of the old guides have retired. The only complaint I have about her is that she speak like a machine gun!
You can book the tour via Sun Cruise at around P2100 with lunch but I got mine at around P1350 in one of the deal sites.
We reach back to Manila on time at around 1600hrs.
I am supposed to meet up one of my Filipino friend, Patrick. We get to know each other in the forum he has been asking for a meet up since 2 years ago.
I do not agree to meet him in the past because I do not want to inconvenience him as you know everyone has a job.
This time I agreed but it is Valentine’s Day and it is considered a big day in Philippines.
He said he is ok as he do not celebrate as he find it too expensive. As long as he bought flowers for his wife, that should be ok.
We have dinner of tortilla at Habour Square. From Patrick I really get to know about Philippines and its culture more.
After a short dinner, Patrick went to pick up his wife and he then drive me to my next destination, Cubao.
The traffic conditions is really bad today. Valentine’s day + Pay Day + Friday. It is a perfect combination of a mega traffic chaos in Manila.
We took 2 hours to travel from Macapagal Boulevard to Cubao! I was so embarrassed that I brought such inconvenience to Patrick though Patrick assure me that it is alright.
We finally reach Cubao at around 2015hrs.
We bid our farewell and hope we will meet again.
Patrick is really a nice guy and I am glad that I have met up with him.
My next stop is Kabayan, Mount Pulag.
I once again joined Tripinas and Mr Tee is again the tour coordinator.
The meetup is 2030hrs at ChowKing and after the briefing, we were given the bus ticket that leave at 2230hrs.
Firstly, dinner and it taste pretty awful.
There is a long queue for bus to Baguio. If you do not buy in advance, you will need to wait for a long while. Victory Liner will re-sell your seats if you do not appear 15 mins before the departure time.
This is actually the first time I took a Victory Liner bus and I must say that I am quite impressed by the condition of the bus.
The bus leaves on time and the jam out of Manila is horrible.
Soon I fell asleep and the next time I open my eyes at 0430hrs, I am already in Baguio!
15th Feb 2014
When I first step out of the bus, the cold wind engulfed me. I was startled by the change in temperature and quickly took my jacket to wear.
Still feeling drowsy, I try to orientate myself.
I walk towards the 7-11 in the Caltex gas station and there is where we are issue our gears; sleeping bag, tents and head lamp.
We also take opportunity to replenish our supplies here.
We then load our luggage to the jeepney which can seat 20 person.
The jeepney leaves at around 0500hrs and the cold wind is making all of us shiver.
Our first stop is breakfast. We are advice to have a heavy breakfast because there will be no time for any food later.
We stayed there for about 45 mins and off we go again. The jeep ride from Baguio to Kabayan is the toughest part. Imagine 20 person squeeze into a jeep and the path is quite bumpy. However I was told by Mr Tee that the road is considered good now compared to last month where most of the road is still unpaved!
The only consolation is that the ride is quite scenic.
I really wanted to try to trek up the mountain by myself. So I chose not to use the service of a porter.
After getting the paper work done and with our assigned guide, we start our trek at around 0930hrs
One tip here. Dress down for the hike. Take off your winter jacket. Just wear a sweater will do.
The hike to the Grassland Summit is expected to take about 3 hours. The initial trek is still paved road and soon we reach the actual trail.
Along the initial trek, we still can see some plantation terraces and farm. Soon we need to negotiate some steep climb and the weight of my backpack is weighing me down. By the time we reach 25% of the trip, I really wanted to give up. I am even surprised that I can cover 25% of the trek!
Our guide must have seen my pathetic look and ask do I need a porter. I said “well, it will be perfect but I do not know where to get one now!”
The answer from my guide is music to my ears.
“There is one over there who is willing to take your luggage”. It is a young chap named Joel. He is actually carrying another baggage and I ask him is he really serious carrying my baggage which I estimate to be around 17kg.
Joel said he is ok with it.
I then pass him my baggage and I now only left with my camera bag and a small personal sling bag.
Mr Tee finally caught up with us and ask how am I doing. He then advice me to get a porter and he feel that my baggage is quite heavy. He told me that I am here to enjoy the trek and not to prove anything. I told him that I manage to find a porter and he is happy that I did so.
After the tent is set up, we just arrange our stuff and prepare for the night. Before that, our cook has already prepared lunch but some of us is just too tired to move and some even just doze off in the tent.
Lunch is served. Soup, vegetables, milk fish and rice. This is the first time I tasted milk fish and I love it.
After lunch I walk around the campsite. The campsite is full and some campers have to pitch their tent on higher ground. There is a latrine on the campsite but you really try not to do your big business there just in case you fall into the hole!
In Nov 2013 trip, some of them even suffered from hypothermia and needs to be carried down using a stretcher.
From the start of the season in Nov 2013 till Jan 2014, they do not have a single successful climb as they are either hampered by fog or rain.
So Mr Tee just want us to get prepared. I got a little worried as I do not know whether do I have enough warm clothing.
The temperature start to drop by the hour. By 1700hrs, I am already at my full gear of winter wear. I can’t imagine how cold will it be in the middle of the night.
Dinner is served at 1730hrs. Vegetable Sinigang,Chicken Adobo with potatoes and rice.
I sat outside my tent and enjoy the night full of stars. The number of stars is not as many I saw in Pinatubo or Malapascua, but is it still a nice scene.
The moon is also very bright and brighten up the campsite.
I have a chat with my neighbour, Chris. He is really a nice chap and the lead his whole family of 7 to Mount Pulag. He is also very hospitable and often offer his own food to me.
I finally decide to turn in thought the night of stars is really tempting to keep me awake.
Another tip here. Bring a mat of possible. I am basically sleeping on rocks and I need to position my sleeping position carefully to make myself comfortable.
I am in the winter wear, thermal pants, merino socks and blanket in my sleeping bag and I am still shivering inside the tent.
We are supposed to wake up at 0300hrs and start the hike up to the summit by 0330hrs.
16th Feb 2014
I woke up at 0200hrs, partially by Chris talking.
I would also suggest to wake up earlier than 0300hrs so you can get used to the weather and also have more time to make yourself fresh.
8 degree celsius.
It was very cold. I was drowsy and I can’t even stand up straight. I asked for a hot drink from Chris which he gladly made one for me. He made coffee which I do not drink but who is to choose?
I take a sip and eat some biscuits to fill my stomach. Chris actually brought his own burner and food to cook!
At about 0300hrs, we make our way to the cook area for another round of hot drink. I made chocolate this time. You will appreciate the hot drink more when you are in a cold environment.
We are supposed to move out at 0330hrs and reach the summit in 90 mins time.
Mount Pulag has 4 summit and we have to pass through every single one in order to reach the top.
Not every group can reach the summit. You will need to get the permit to ascend to the summit. You may ask who is to check?
The answer, “The guide”.
Our group has applied for the permit much earlier so we are allowed to reach the summit.
At around 0340hrs, we moved out.
The estimated 2km trail to summit is a dark one. We are blessed with a bright moonlight and mild wind. However this does not make the trek much easier.
There are hundreds of hikers doing the same trail. So it is good to start as early as possible.
We walk in astonishing speed and we just push ourselves forward. You will soon lost sight of your group because everyone is walking at different speed. Furthermore, it is dark.
The trail up to the summit is up and up and still up. There is very little downward road.
I soon lost sight of my group and I can see some hikers taking momentarily break.
I was soon joined by Jerlynn and Vera which belongs to another group within the same tour company.
We hike together and soon Mr Tee is behind Vera and I am in front of Vera. Jerlynn is at the front of all of us.
While trekking on a narrow trail, I step on the border of the trail and I slip and fell.
I gave a yell and I heard Mr Tee voice asking what happned.
Jerlynn and Vera rushed towards my aid.
They pulled me up and asked if I am ok. I checked my ankle and it is alright and I can still walk. I request them to continue and I quickly pick myself up and continue.
We always ask ourselves where is the summit. We saw a few “false” summit and when we reach there, we found that there is another summit to climb.
We march on.
At the last 200m, the slope become very steep. With this, we know that the summit is near.
For the last 20m. I dashed up the slope and finally reached the summit.
0455hrs. 3 degree celsius.
I find a spot and took a rest. I can’t believe I really made it to the summit.
By then there sea of clouds is visible with the aid of the moonlight.
By 0530hrs, the first ray of light has appeared.
Someone pull me up and we continue again.
What an embarrassment.
I was sitting in my tent giving myself a break.
It was then the reality of the severity of my morning fall start to set in.
I was lucky that I fell towards the mountain side. If I will to fall off the slope, I guess I will not be writing this report now. I realised that I almost died.
My hands start to tremble a little but I have no time to lose.
I quickly pack my stuff and wait for my porter.
We then went for our breakfast. Cup Noodles, Fried Longanisa and rice.
Frankly speaking, I am so tired that I have no appetite but I still try to fill my stomach with some food.
Soon I saw my porter and I told him our schedule.
He wasted no time to dismantle the tent and we just wait for the rest. I told the porter to go ahead first at wait for me at the foot of the mountain.
I told Mr Tee that I would like to move first but he said I will have to wait for the rest of the group. One of the member said jokingly “you have no luggage”.
I said “Yeah, I know but without the luggage, I am still the slowest!” They roared into laughter.
By 0940hrs, we start to move.
The trek downwards is not that easy either. 8km of trek estimated. We have to go through some steep slope down.
Since I am trekking in a more relaxing load, I enjoyed the trek more.
Doing this trek, I would suggest you to wear proper hiking shoes. As mentioned, we are lucky that we have dry weather and according to Mr Tee, it is usually wet and slippery. I have seen many people just wearing their running shoes for the trek which I find it dangerous.
Also during the trek, take as many rest stop as possible. Keeping yourself hydrated is essential. Remember there is no competition. There is no prize at the end of the trek.
The last 2km of the trek down is bad.
The sun start to shine and we are still in our winter wear. We do not perspire but it just feel uncomfortable.
Along the way, I saw some porters and they do really have my respect and they put me to shame.
I chose not to take the motorcycle and soldier on.
I finally reached the Ranger station at 1110hrs and after 10mins of searching, I found my porter. I really appreciate his help and I gave P600 for his service.
Ambuklao Lake is actually a dam too and we are just there to return our gears to the tour company.
We finally reach Baguio at around 1645hrs. It is faster than expected because the road is paved now.
The driver drop us off at Brunham Park.
I do not find anything special but just a normal road with steep slope!
I then took a taxi to SM Baguio and the fare is P49. I gave the driver P50 and wanted to get out the taxi. The driver shouted for me and wanted to return the change to me. I was dumbfounded. I told him that he can keep the change. This is a surprised change from the Manila taxi drivers.
I did not shop around the mall but just go to the supermarket to find some stuff. SM Baguio Supermarket is incredibly small.
I can’t find what I wanted and so I just went to Shakey’s for dinner. Business is good but service is slow there. Sigh…..
The taxi driver look at me when he heard my destination and I wondered what’s wrong.
I was in the taxi busy counting my remaining coins when suddenly the taxi stop. I thought it is a traffic junction.
Another interesting thing I noticed in Baguio is that the vehicles here actually follow the traffic lights and allow pedestrians to cross the road!
When I lift up my head, I then realised that we are actually at the bus terminal. The fare is P39.
I now understand why the driver look surprised when I told him my destination; because it is so near to SM! He must be wondering who is this lazy man who can’t even walk 10mins to the station!
I paid the fare but he did not give me any change.
I saw Mr Tee at the bus terminal and have a chat with him.
I can’t help but ask him the question “What will you do if I will to fell down the mountain?”
He said he seriously never thought about it and it is a good question. After a few awkward silence, he answered that he will send a rescue team to me.
This make sense as I do not expect him to go down to rescue me. One casualty is bad enough and I really do not need another.
The bus soon arrived and we load up all our luggage. Our final stop is in Cubao but I chose to alight at Pasay by paying another P10 more.
I again slept through most part of the journey.
17th Feb 2014
We finally reach Manila at around 0230hrs.
After bidding farewell to Chris, I took a taxi to Malate Victoria Courts. The charge is about P1752 with free breakfast for a 24hr stay. I then presented my membership card for discount.
I also discovered that with a P500 deposit, you can hold on to the key.
They assigned the same room to me again!
I then catch some sleep.
Woke up at 0830hrs and start to prepare for my day. I did the usual things, shopping.
Feeling a little Filipino today, I decide to take the MRT and also the jeepney to Mall of Asia. Not bad for a P20 fare.
The guard finally saw an airport taxi and flag it down and the driver agree to bring me back to the airport.
I noticed the meter is showing P490 and I request him to reset the meter. He told me that his meter is faulty and I smell a rat.
He then ask me how much do I usually pay for the fare to the airport and I answered P250. He answered “Ok, P250 then. I am good man!”.
I chuckled when I hear that.
From the taxi driver, I understand that Manila is embarking a new project to build a new Skyway. It will be from the existing Skyway to Balintawak Walk in the North. This project will be completed in 2 years and I am astonished by the deadline.
So for the next 2 years, be prepared for massive jam and better to leave 4 hours before your flight.
I reach NAIA around 1900hrs and I gave the driver P300. I really like this guy.
I noticed a few changes in NAIA from my previous visit.
- There are more trolleys at the entrance of the airport though I am still puzzled why there are no trolleys where the taxi drop off it.
- There are more food outlets.
- There are even luggage trolley after immigration.
- Finally someone woke up his idea and found that putting the chairs in a straight row at the gate is a stupid idea. They have re-arrange the chairs that to access each seat is much easier now.
With this, it end my 20th trip in Philippines.
This is actually a significant trip to me. This month is my 61st month after my cancer treatment. This means I have passed my 5 years of remission stage.
That is why I chose to climb a mountain and I have chosen Philippines.