A friend once said that you should never set your favorite song as your alarm tone because you’re eventually going to hate it and because no one, ever, is going to hate Beauty and the Beast, I put it on before going to a late midnight sleep. And before the “tale as old as time” line blasted, I was up stirring 3-in-1 coffee and wishing that my old hiking shoes won’t give up on me today, and of course, for the weather to be kind enough and spare us from the rain on our way down—these, Bes, began our pre-holiday kinda minor climb to Mt. Bahile, aka Suso ng Dalaga (according to kuya-I-cannot-name) a 747 MaSL and 4/9 difficulty level mountain in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. And oh! You can scroll down to skip the narrative and go directly to the details. XD
How to get there
Ferds, Ate Ems, and I took a van for PHP 50 from San Jose Terminal while our new-found friends, Potpot and Ate Jess, took a 40-minute motorcycle ride to the trail head at Brgy. Salvacion, right before the intersection, near the City Health Satellite Clinic. After securing trail foods—stuff we should never, ever, forget—we began the 4-hour ascent.
The hike began on a muddy path through residential lots, vegetable farms, rivers and creeks, and where fierce looking carabaos and even fiercer sounding dogs seem to be so ready to eat you whole should you touch some of their owners’ eggplants. An hour of ‘chill trekking’ took to us to the foot of the mountain where the vegetation became sparser. We’re not even on the one third of our hike but my breathing is already ragged. Lesson learned, never under-estimate the mountains, be ready – exercise and prepare your mind, most importantly, sleep early and eat before (and during) the climb.
After the semi-ultramafic path, the trail brought us to a 45-minute relaxing walk under the shade of lush forest trees deep holes, believed to have been bored by Japanese individuals who were testing for chromite deposits in the area, were scattered along the trail, unmarked. Fun fact: nobody slipped! Right when we heard the sound of the gushing waters, Ferds told us to go ahead. I was about to ask, “Why do we have to go first? Is this where the snakes lurk?”, when we suddenly found ourselves standing in the middle of the ultramafic rocks with the waterfalls cascading and streaming down the flatlands. On the other side, a rich view of Puerto Princesa city greets us, silently sprawled below the clear azure Sunday morning sky, bordered by hues of blues of Honda Bay dotted with islands and its white sand beaches.
We skipped the rocks, which I think is my favorite, and entered another forested area with a different type of vegetation. Pine trees, rattans and pandans dot the trail and oh, snakes too. We saw one coiled in the crevice of the rock, sun bathing, maybe because it’s raining for days. Papa said it’s an Ugtu-ugto (somebody told me it’s a garter snake). Ferds warned us that the remaining hour-and-a-half part of the trail is an assault, my least favorite word in my favorite weekend trips. Ferds, as usual, advised me to wear a jacket to protect my arms from rattans along the trail – which, Bes, became my downfall, the heat weakened me. We followed the track of the river upstream in areas where the trail is unrecognizable. The assault began and my knees decided to not cooperate. Each step became dragging. I started to think of food that we will eat on the peak just to motivate myself. Ate Ems was just chilling behind me–she hasn’t even eaten breakfast earlier. We strategized; we took 50 steps then “take five”, just to push uphill. Jess and Potpot were trailing behind with Ferds assisting them from time to time. I was contemplating on why do I keep on punishing myself by climbing mountains when the forest thinned, the breeze turned colder and the sea of clouds welcomed us up on the peak. I was dumbfounded and for a second, I was silent and thankful and simply smiling…in the midst of loud happy congratulations.
It has been raining for weeks and we were lucky enough to be blessed with a fair weather for this climb. The view atop was of lush green mountains belted with the sea of thick clouds, occasionally giving clearing whenever the wind blew south. St. Paul Mountain and Cleopatra’s Needle is peaking through the clouds beyond the flatlands of Bahile, Tagabinet and Cabayugan. The Ulugan Bay in West Philippine Sea and Honda Bay in Sulu Sea extending towards the city border the narrowest point in Palawan. Cascades of what would be towering waterfalls are visible on the slope of the surrounding mountains of Bacungan – everywhere we look is serene, breathtaking and picture perfect.
With the birds and swiftlets gliding down the plains and with the hues of tens to hundreds of playful butterflies chasing each other quietly, we rediscovered our strength and breathed in the untouched beauty of nature and laughed and reminisced and planned for our next mountain.
The descent – two things: knee shaking and dogs barking, one after the other or at the same time.
Also, if you want a condensed version of my adventure, I’ve prepared one. You’re welcome!
|Elevation||747 Meters above Sea Level (MaSL)|
|How to get there?||Bus and vans from San Jose terminal for PHP 35.00 to 50.00 or private vehicles – the earliest depart at 5:30 AM|
|Jump-off/trail head||Salvacion, Puerto Princesa City, in front of City Health Satellite Clinic|
|Duration||Day hike – 4 hours ascent and 3 to 4 hours descent. The earlier you begin, the better – the more time for pictures|
|What to wear?||Hiking (no, not running) shoes, colorful (it looks good on photographs) long sleeved quick-dry tops, appropriate hiking pants|
|What to bring?||1.5 liters of water, trail mixes, chocolate bars or jelly ace, first aid kit, power bank and camera|
|Network Signal?||In some areas|
|Look out for||Chromite mine test holes, rattan thorns and snakes|
|Is this an advisable mountain for first time hikers?||I don’t think so. But if you believe that you can, no one should stop you from doing it because I am sure, you will.|
|You want the best guide?||Contact Ferdinand Lardizabal at 0926 196 4005 – he’s available on Sundays|
|Is it worth it?||Hell yes!|
|Reminders||Please LEAVE NO TRACE – take nothing but pictures; no, don’t ever pick the wild orchid that you really liked, leave nothing but footprints; kill nothing but time – don’t kill the snake and don’t let it kill you.|
|How to end the hike with the blast?||Wash your shoes on the tapstand in the trailhead and order PHP 50.00 Lomi at Lee Food Stop – the best I ever had here in Palawan!|
About the Author: Karen Madarcos is a weekend warrior from Puerto Princesa. If you can’t find her in her daily walks around Sta. Monica, she’s either chasing a waterfall, floating in a nearby beach, getting lost in an unpaved trek, eating, getting bruises from hiking, blogging about all of these, reading her book of the week or most likely, working in a Research and Development Consortium to save for her upcoming weekends. Follow her instagram account at @shinakaren and see her website at wanderingkaren.com.
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