Mt Isarog: Hiking at the Heart of Camarines Sur

Soaring at 1966 MASL, Mt Isarog is a paradise at the heart of Camarines Sur. It has rich biodiversity with its very own mossy forests and verdant crater, an overview of Bicol Peninsula, and a glimpse of majestic Mt. Mayon. Mt Isarog is the second highest mountain in Bicol.

View from Mt Isarog Peak

After 1 week of stay here in Bicol seeing once and again the jaw-dropping view of the white sand island of Calaguas and visiting my relatives and friends from different parts of Bicol, my last stop was Naga. Our group REDM or Relax, Extremely Daring Mountaineers, made this hike possible lead by Dio with help from Jojo Villareal of Kaddlagan Outdoor Shop in Naga. Jojo took care of our permit, guides and transportation going to the jump off at Panicuason. (See details of Itinerary and Expenses of this hike by clicking here.)

Since I was already in Bicol before the event, I stayed in Naga the night before.  I stayed at Sunny View Hotel and paid just 450 pesos. It was an air-conditioned room with cable TV, hot & cold shower and a comfy bed. It’s located just passed the bridge after you turn left coming from SM Naga. Their cheapest room costs just 250 pesos, perfect if you’re on a tight budget and is looking for a place to sleep.

Contact Details: (054) 473-9848 / 473-8771

Room Rates (per night)
Single Fan Room P 250
Matrimonial Fan Room P 350
Singe Air-con P 450
Matrimonial Air-con P 550
Twin Air-con P 550
Triple Air-con P 800
Family Room P 1200
Extra Person P 100
Extra Mattress P 100

Photos of are available on my other entry. Simply click here.

The following day, I met up with them at Naga Central Bus Terminal who all came from Manila. We went for a quick breakfast at a nearby food stall then went to buy return tickets for Manila then off we go!

After securing our tickets, we went to Peñafrancia Shrine for a quick stop as well as to get some supplies from a nearby grocery and market place.

 

After getting all the supplies needed and some picture-taking, we then head to Brgy Panicuason which served as the jump off of our hike. Travel time is around 30 minutes. We secured guide and fixed all our stuff before the actual ascend.

Off course non-stop picture-taking on our way up going to DENR for registration…

After registration, our trek began. The ascend was very gradual and relaxed. The only challenging part was actually seeing Limatiks (bloodsuckers). Everyone was conscious or should I say paranoid of having a close encounter with the little creature. Haha! Despite this everyone managed to stop whenever there’s an opportunity for a quick snapshot along the trail.

Limatiks were more active during the first 2 hours of trek and as you get higher the less chance of getting a close encounter. We decided to have lunch at Camp 1. The trail is mostly mossy forest-covered with big trees. Few more stops at Camp 2 and Camp 3 until we decided to stop at Camp 4 at around 5:30PM where we pitched our tent. We wanted to go to Camp 5 but water source were closer at Camp 4.

After pitching our tent, dinner was prepared then finally we had a chance to eat a full meal.We had Pasta and Bicol Express. Yum! Dinner was followed by Socials where we talk about all sorts of things, experiences, plans, and to simply have some fun. Camp 4 is pretty much safe from Limatiks. Luckily!

During our socials we managed to finish 7 bottles of GSM Mojito and 1 bottle of Emperador Light but no effect to everyone. It was cold that night but pretty much manageable as long as you have jacket.

The following day, wake up call was 6AM. After coffee and light breakfast, we started trekking the summit. Trail was easy because we didn’t have any backpacks but it would be quite challenging if you have one as you have to crawl at some point and go under or over some branches or roots to move forward.

We reached the summit 2 hours after at around 9AM. We didn’t manage to see the crater view as it was all covered with clouds, we went further up and climbed the trees to see the view from the top. It was magnificent! Thank God!

Slowly the clouds covered the view so after almost an hour after few snapshots and group photos we hurriedly descended to reach the Campsite to prepare for brunch (breakfast and lunch). Some took water whilst some started cleaning and cooking.

After brunch, we started packing our things and cleaning our surrounding following the “Leave No Trace” policy. It was a bit challenging going down since the trail are slippery and are all covered with trees, you won’t see any beam of light touching the ground.

It was around 3:30PM when we reached the DENR station. Whilst waiting for the rest, we decided to go to Malabsay Falls which is roughly 15 minutes walk. Entrance fee is free of charge if you hiked Mt Isarog but if not, you have to pay 10 pesos.

We just wanted to see the falls out of curiosity but due to its grandeur and beauty we decided to take a dip on its ice-cold water. It was a relaxing feeling. The enjoyment didn’t last as we had to immediately go back to get to the jump off. After taking some photos we went back to DENR to get our things and trek back to  jump off station (GSP Camp Maria Aurora).

Due to lack of area where we could shower and tidy up, we went to Sulat Pool to clean up and change clothes before heading back to the main city. Entrance fee costs 50 pesos and cottage rental costs 150 pesos. The don’t have a descent restroom or shower room so don’t expect anything. Water is abundant as it all comes from the mountain.

We managed to leave Panicuason at around 6PM and arrived at Naga City Bus Terminal at around 6:30PM. Our scheduled departure was at 7:15PM and with so little time to spend, some decided to have a quick dinner and some just bought food. We wanted to catch a later departure but since most are fully booked we had no choice but to get the 7:15 bus

Only if we had more time to spend here…

This was my very first hike here in Bicol and is definitely going to be one of the most memorable. More than the Limatiks, cold breeze of air, beautiful flora and fauna, amazing view from the top, good friends, warm smiles and happy faces, it’s the unexplainable feeling and contentment only nature can fulfill that makes it memorable.

Camarines Sur has indeed a lot of things to offer. I know haven’t seen much about this place but simply having the opportunity to hike at the heart of Camarines Sur, you’ll surely fall in love and ask for more. Undeniably one of the best in Bicol and a must visit.

For details of the Itinerary and Expenses, click here.

Cagayan Trip: Palaui Island + Cape Engano

Few months before this trip I applied for a 3 day leave so I could attend a friend’s wedding only to find out it was moved after my leave got approved. Not wasting any change, SimangGala and I decided to look for an interesting place to go until we came across a blog about Palaui Island. Right then and there we agreed to go and started planning. Since it wasn’t really well planned, only 3 of us went. It was early Thursday morning when we went to Florida Bus Terminal to catch the 3AM bus going to Tuguegarao. For some reason the bus left 4AM since the 5AM bus was cancelled.

We were supposed to look for the cheapest place to stay, fortunately SimangGala’s half brother lives in Tuguegarao. That’s few hundred pesos off of our expenses. It took us 13 long hours to get to our destination. Next time I would take the plane. Haha!

In Tuguegarao, we were picked up by SimangGala’s relative in the terminal.

We were brought to a well known panciteria serving Batil Patong. Excited as always when it comes to food, not knowing how big the portion is we immediately asked for the Special one.

Batil Patong is Tuguegarao’s own version of stir-fried noodles served with an egg topping and a side serving of egg drop soup. This is also served with loads of onions, chicharon, sliced pork, cabbage and beef strips. This dish won’t be complete without soy sauce, chilli and Calamansi.

We were surprised that you have to make your own mix to top off the dish. Clueless of what to do, we watched how the locals did it and voila we now have our very own Pancit Batil Patong. Delicious! Devine!

We couldn’t move after finishing the entire dish. So after eating, we decided to call it a day and went straight to Brgy Bagay where we stayed for a night. And yes it’s FREE!

Since we need to leave early the following day, we decided to rest. To no avail, we couldn’t sleep. We decided to just play cards while drinking coffee and chitchatting.

While playing, one of my friends commented on my foursquare post telling me that his friend who I also know was in Tuguegarao. I immediately sent him a message telling him of our whereabouts and our plan for the next couple of days. Luckily he decided to join us. From 3 we’re now up to 4. Yey!

It was 3 in the morning when we woke up. After drinking coffee and taking a bath, we went to the van terminal going to Sta Ana Cagayan.

Still very early, we decided to buy Hot Pandesal. Yummy!

The van left at exactly 5 am. It took us 3 hours to get to our destination; we were sleeping almost the entire time.

In Sta Ana Cagayan, a friend who was suppose to join us asked us to go straight to Dampa Seafoods and Restaurant to ask for his Aunt and Uncle to ask for help to get to Palaui.

We were surprised to be given free breakfast. After breakfast, some of us decided to go to the market to get some supplies. Since there is no electricity/market in the island, it’s best if you buy or bring anything you need and make a checklist to avoid missing anything.

Before leaving Sta Ana, we were offered yet another FREE treat, this time, Lunch.

Colorful way of getting around the town. This is what they call Quadcycle.

The sun was out so we thought it would be a calm and smooth ride going to the island. Apparently not, this reminds me of the boat ride going to Calaguas. Rough! To add to that, we don’t have life jackets. Haha! This explains why we don’t have many pictures taken while on the boat.

It took us almost an hour to get to Engano Cove. Due to its shape, the water facing Engano Cove is generally calm. Right after setting foot on the island, we went straight to the island marker and took some photos.

With Simang Gala

Not ready yet to set camp, we left our stuff near the camping area and went to Cape Engano Lighthouse.

View of Palaui Island on our way up

More Pictures

Ate Maya, a local resident.

View of Dos Hermanas from the Light House

More Pictures taken from the Cape Engano Light House

After making some few conversations with Maya, she offered to bring us to the waterfalls. We never saw any blog post about the waterfalls so out of curiosity we decided to go. To get there we passed by Leonardo’s Trail.

The rain started to fall on our way there which according to Maya is better so we could enjoy the water. It was refreshing and at the same time relaxing.

Maya offered to show us where they are staying and to show us some of the souvenir she created herself.

Back in the campsite, we pitched our tent and prepared for an early dinner.

We had Bicol Express and Adobong Pusit. Yumyum!

After dinner, even before sunset, we then had some few tequila shots.

Colorful Sunset at Cape Engano.

We slept really early because of the heavy rain. We just couldn’t imagine how we survived the long cold night waking up all drenched in rain water the following day. It was such an experience. We somehow managed to secure all our important belongings dry and safe.

Very early in the morning, we tried to dry up all our wet clothes while preparing breakfast. Thinking about the heavy rain last night, we thought we won’t be picked up by our boat. With all smiles we saw the boat from the horizon moving closer. We offered them food but they seem to just ignore us.

730 AM, till we meet again. We rode the boat going back to Sta Ana.

This is yet another memorable backpacking/camping experience.

Follow the story on my next entry as we visit the beautiful NANGARAMOAN BEACH.