Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mt. Purgatory Overnight Traverse (DIY/KKB) In Bokod, Benguet

Let’s kick off the month of August with a nice and slow climb. And what better way to do that than to hit the long and winding trails of Mt. Purgatory in Bokod, Benguet. This is an invitational DIY/KKB climb so I’ll be screening participants to make sure that we are all in the same boat. There’s only one requirement. Your body should be conditioned in the sense that you can hike for 6 to 8 hours straight without losing your wits. You should make the effort to jog and run in the weeks prior to the climb. I wouldn’t recommend the Mt. Purgatory traverse to first-time hikers.

I say it again, this is an invitational DIY/KKB climb. As much as possible, let’s all try to be independent and self-contained hikers. I’m merely your organizer and coordinator. I handle contacting and negotiating with the driver, talking with the tourism office in Bokod, reserving slots for the event, setting up our itinerary, and deciding where we will camp out for the night. This is where my responsibilities end.

I’m not your guide. I’m not your porter. I’m not your psychologist. I’m not your accountant. I’m not your dating coach. And so on and so forth.

Mt. Purgatory Overnight Traverse in Bokod, Benguet.

We are going there to commune with nature, meet and be amongst like-minded people, and enjoy the trails. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you are interested, you know the drill. Just visit my Facebook page, drop me a message, and I’ll see what I can do. Just search for "The Cordilleran Sun" on Facebook. Or you can email me at thecordilleransun@gmail.com. Thank you.

See ya at the trails!

Monday, June 25, 2018

How to Get to Barangay Poblacion in Bakun, Benguet

This is a quick guide for tourists, hikers, climbers, or anyone who wants to know how to get to barangay Poblacion in Bakun, Benguet. Poblacion is the tourism center for the town for the simple reason that the barangay serves as the jump-off point for majority of the tourist destinations in the region. It’s also the base camp for hikers climbing the famous Bakun Trio (Mt. Tenglawan, Mt. Lubo, and Mt. Kabunian).

If You Are Commuting
The only public transport vehicle that goes to Poblacion is a single bus that departs from La Trinidad, Benguet between 6:00 and 7:00 in the morning. If I remember correctly, the bus waits for passengers at the parking lot of Kenwayne Commercial in Km. 6, La Trinidad. For those not in the know, La Trinidad is a Benguet town neighbouring Baguio City. By jeep, La Trinidad is just 20 minutes to 1 hour away from the city depending on vehicular traffic.

Anyway, you must be at the Kenwayne Commercial parking lot before 6:00 am to make sure that you have a seat in the bus. I repeat, there’s only one bus that plies the La Trinidad – Poblacion route. Well, there are actually two buses but the other one departs from Poblacion and heads to La Trinidad. Bus seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fare is around 185 to 200 pesos per passenger. The route follows Halsema Highway until Sinipsip in Buguias, Benguet. From there, the bus takes another road that leads to Poblacion. Travel time from Baguio City/La Trinidad to Poblacion is between 5 to 7 hours.

If You Are Driving Your Own Car
If you have your own car, there are two routes you can follow. The first one is the same as the route of the public bus. From Baguio City, head to La Trinidad, follow Halsema Highway all the way to Sinipsip, Buguias. From there, look for the diversion road that leads to Bakun. It’s easy to spot because there’s a huge sign that says “To Bakun”. Or just ask the locals there. The second route is through Kapangan and Kibungan. This route is a little bit harder to follow because of the many diversions road branches along the way. If you are not familiar with the route, you will have to stop often to ask locals if you are on the right direction towards Bakun.
Layan Rice Fields in Poblacion, Bakun. Photo by Daniel Feliciano/The Cordilleran Sun

The Condition of the Road to Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet
Majority of the road is paved. Whether you are taking the Halsema Highway route or the Kapangan-Kibungan route, the road is cemented and mostly in good condition. Of course, you will encounter patches of rough road every now and then courtesy of ongoing construction and widening projects. The few kilometres going down to Poblacion itself are probably the roughest parts of the road. The road is often narrow and unpaved.

How Many Hours to Poblacion, Bakun?
The bus usually takes between 5 to 7 hours to get there. That’s understandable since it often stops along the way. Private vehicles can get there for as short as 4 hours.

Is There a Bus from Poblacion, Bakun to La Trinidad or Baguio City?
Yes, there’s a bus that departs from Poblacion every morning between 6:00 and 7:00 am. It’s the only bus trip so make sure that you catch it early. The bus stops in the town of La Trinidad. If you are going to Baguio City, you will have to take a jeep or a taxi from La Trinidad to Baguio City.

If you have further questions on how to get to Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet, feel free to ask in the comments section below. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Information for Tourists Planning to Visit Bakun’s Waterfalls, Mountains and Other Tourist Spots

If you are planning to head over to the municipality of Bakun in Benguet to climb its mountains or explore its numerous waterfalls, be aware that there’s a protocol you must follow. First of all, you should inform barangay Poblacion that you are coming. Barangay Poblacion is the town’s tourism center because it serves as base camp for majority of the visitors exploring the town’s tourist destinations. Give them a heads-up days before you travel there. The contact details of the people you should talk to are provided in the document below.

After arrival in Poblacion, it’s mandatory that you register, pay the necessary fees, and secure guides before you depart towards a tourist spot. The fees and rates are detailed in the following document.

Note: This is a document I copied verbatim from files sent to me by the Barangay Tourism Council. If you think there are errors or inconsistencies with it, please direct your inquiries at the Barangay Tourism Council, not to me.
Pattan Falls in Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet. Photo by Daniel Feliciano/The Cordilleran Sun
Barangay Tourism Council (BTC)
Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet

I. Pre-Departure
Visitors are advised to contact the Municipal Tourism Officer or the barangay government of Poblacion/Sinacbat, Bakun, Benguet.

Contact Persons:
Mr. Arthur A. Tolito – 09212113687/09053172616 (Municipal Tourism Officer)
Ms. Nenita A. Budas – 09183523722 (BTC President)
Mr. Peter A. Diclas – 09303625434 (Tour Guide Coordinator for Mt. Kabunian)
Ms. Mylene Toanen – 09098709002 (Tour Guide Coordinator for Mt. Lobo and Nagasa Cave)
Mr. Myrick Losente – 09128083649 (Tour Guide Coordinator for Mt. Tenglawan)

II. Arrival
All hikers visiting the Bakun Trio and other tourist spots should drop by at the Tourist Assistance Center located at the Barangay Hall to register, secure permit, pay necessary fees and be given a briefing. However, hikers going to Mt. Lobo and Nagasa Cave using the Dada route (traverse to Poblacion proper, base camp) are advised to register and pay environment fee at the Dada Multi-Purpose Building. Hikers going to Mt. Tenglawan using the Sinacbat route is likewise to follow same protocol above upon arrival to Poblacion proper.

Registration per person includes paying the fee rates as follows:

Environmental and Registration Fees:
Mt. Tenglawan – 100 per person
Mt. Kabunian – 100 per person
Mt. Gedgedayan – 100 per person
Mt. Lobo – 100 per person
Nagasa Cave – 100 per person
Mt. Lobo and Nagasa Cave – 100 per person
Tekip Falls – 50 per person
Pikaw Falls – 75 per person
Pattan Falls – 75 per person
Sakup Falls – 75 per person
Bagiw River – 50 per person
Mangta Falls – 75 per person

Tour Guide Fees
Hikers are required to engage with a tour guide in a ratio of 1-6 individuals. If you exceed 6 individuals, you will have to pay the guide 100 per excess. But you should not exceed 8 individuals. If you are beyond 8 individuals, you are going to need two guides.

The rates per tourist site are as follows:
1. Poblacion – Mt. Tenglawan - Poblacion: 12 hours, 1300 per guide, 3:00 am the earliest departure
2. Poblacion – Mt. Kabunian - Poblacion: 8 hours, 1000 per guide, 4:00 am the earliest departure
3. Poblacion – Mt. Lobo/Mt. Patullok – Poblacion: 7 hours, 900 per guide
4. Dada – Mt. Lubo/Mt. Patulok – Dada: 6 hours, 600 per guide
5. Dada – Mt. Lubo/Mt. Patullok – Poblacion: 7 hours, 800 per guide
6. Poblacion – Mt. Tenglawan – Poblacion: 12 hours, 1300 per guide
7. Sinacbat – Mt. Tenglawan – Sinacbat: 8 hours, 800 per guide
8. Sinacbat – Mt. Tenglawan – Poblacion: 12 hours, 1300 per guide
9. Poblacion – Nagasa Cave – Poblacion: 8 hours, 600 per guide
10. Dada – Mt. Lobo/Mt. Patullok – Nagasa Cave – Poblacion: 10 hours, 1200 per guide
11. Poblacion - Mangta Falls - Poblacion: 7 hours, 700 per guide
12. Poblacion - Pattan Falls - Poblacion: 6 hours, 600 per guide
13. Poblacion - Mt. Gedgedayan - Poblacion: 8 hours, 1000 per guide

Note: When the duration set for the route exceeds the target number of hours, there is an additional fee of 50 pesos per hour for Mt. Kabunian and Mt. Lubo while 100 pesos per hour for Mt. Tenglawan.

Tekip Falls: 300 per guide. Tour is maximum of three hours. For every excess of one hour, add 50 pesos.
Bagiw River: 250 per guide. Tour is maximum of three hours. For every excess of one hour, add 50 pesos.
Pikaw Falls: 500 per guide. Tour is maximum of five hours. For every excess of one hour, add 50 pesos.
Sakup Falls: 400 per guide. Tour is maximum of five hours. For every excess of one hour, add 50 pesos.
Pattan Falls: 500 per guide. Tour is maximum of six hours. For every excess of one hour, add 50 pesos.
Mt. Kabunian (from barangay Kayapa/Kibungan) to Poblacion: 800 per guide
Poblacion – Mt. Kabunian – Kayapa/Kibungan – 800 per guide

Package 1: Poblacion – Mt. Kabunian plus Pattan Falls. Pass through the Hedcor Inc. conveyance line.: 1000 per guide

Package 2: Tekip Falls, Bagiw River, Pikaw Falls, Sakup Falls, Layaan Rice Terraces, Burial Caves along Sapid, Layaan and Lutaan: 1000 per guide, valid for one day

Package 3: Tekip Falls, Bagiw River, Layaan Rice Terraces and Burial Caves along Sapid, Layan, and Lutaan: 600 per guide, valid for one day

Package 4: Sakup Falls, Pikaw Falls, Bagiw River, Rice Terraces and Burial Caves along Sapid, Layan, and Lutaan: 950 per guide, valid for one day

Package 5: Bagiw River, Rice Terraces and Burial Caves: 250 per guide

Package 6: Mt. Kabunian plus Gawaan Rice Terraces, Beey Kawit Falls, Hanging Bridges, Bagiw River and Burial Caves: 1000 per guide, valid for a day

Package 7: Mt. Kabunian plus Pattan Falls, Gawaan Rice Terraces, Hanging Bridges, Beey Kawit Falls, Bagiw River and Burial Caves: 1200 per guide, valid for one day

Package 8: Mt. Gedgedayan plus Pikaw Falls, Bagiw River, Burial Caves and Rice Terraces along Sapid, Layan, and Lutaan: 1400 per guide, valid for one day

Package 9: Pikaw Falls and Bagiw River: 600 per guide, six hours

Package 10: Mt. Gedgedayan and Pikaw Falls: 1200 per guide, valid for a day

For Overnight in the Tourist Spot:
Mt. Lubo: 1100 per guide
Mt. Kabunian/Mt. Gedgedayan: 1300 per guide
Poblacion – Mt. Tenglawan – Poblacion: 1800 per guide
Poblacion – Mt. Tenglawan – Sinacbat: 1800 per guide
Sinacbat – Mt. Tenglawan – Sinacbat: 1300 per guide
Sinacbat – Mt. Tenglawan – Poblacion: 1800 per guide
Tekip Falls: 750 per guide
Bagiw River: 750 per guide
Pikaw Falls: 800 per guide
Sakup Falls: 800 per guide
Pattan Falls: 1000 per guide

Porter’s Fee:
Same as tour guide fee.

Note: Maximum load is 20 kilograms plus 20 pesos in excess per every one kilogram. Load per porter should not exceed 25 kilograms.

Services Fee/Camping Fee
Inside and or outside the Old Municipal Building/Open Market Building: 80 pesos per person per night for maintenance, water, and electricity.

For Hire Items from the Barangay Government and Tour Guides Association
1. Blanket: 40 per night
2. Mat: 40 per night
3. Pillow: 20 per night
4. Mattress: 40 per night
5. Sleeping bag: 40 per night
6. Earth pad: 40 per night

Note: All the fees will be collected at the tourist assistance center (barangay hall) upon registration.

III. Hiking
Hikers/hiking groups have their own set of rules to follow. However, while inside the Bakun Trio, you are advised to follow these pointers:
1. Hikers must designate strong hikers (especially for big groups) who could act as sweepers to take care of slow hikers.
2. All hikers must always be guided by the mountaineer’s credo: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but foot prints, and kill nothing but time.
3. For trail junctions where there are no trail signs, advance group members should make temporary directional signs for others to follow.
4. No hikers are allowed to bring with them liquor and dangerous drugs.
5. For smokers, properly put off cigarettes to avoid forest fires.
6. Hikers who camp in the tourist sites must construct their tents at the designated camp site.
7. Fill up water bottles before hiking. In areas where springs are available, the water is potable for people who do not have sensitive stomachs.
8. Respect the indigenous people’s culture. The culture may be different from yours but it is their culture. You are in their cultural ground.
9. Hiking should be fun. It is not a race. Take time to enjoy what nature offers. It is free.
10. Lastly, safety first at all times.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mt. Purgatory Overnight Traverse: A Hike To Remember

When I decided to fire up my old laptop to write this short blog post, I found myself staring into a blank screen for long stretches of time. Like a bored ghost, the cursor blinked endlessly as the minutes went by. I was utterly clueless on how I should begin. Then I remembered a piece of writing advice I’ve read just several days ago. It suggested that if you’re writing about a recent trip, you should jot down the most memorable parts of it then create a narrative around them.

So I asked myself "what were the most memorable parts of my recent Mt. Purgatory climb?" Several ideas came rushing through.

1. The jokes we shared and the laughter that often came after.
2. The thrill of riding on top of a speeding monster jeep.
3. The amazing views of the great Ambuklao Lake as it wraps itself around the towering mountains of Bokod.
4. Savoring bottles of limited gin and brandy on a cold, cold night.
5. More genuine laughter.
6. The unguarded moments.
7. The taste of brewed coffee after a back-breaking trek.
8. The unbelievable temperature as dawn breaks.
9. One, two, Pack. One, two, Bakian.
10. The houses with heart-shaped windows.
11. The sea of clouds.
12. The mist.
13. The smell of pine trees.
14. My injury-prone knees starting to act up.
15. Running the trail from Purgatory to Bakian.
16. That satisfying feeling of beginning the trek as strangers and ending it as friends.

How am I supposed to create a narrative around such a long list. I don't know. It beats me. Maybe some other time. All that it matters (for now) is that it was a good climb among good company. I can't wait to go back and do it all over again.

Thanks for the memories. Hanggang sa muling pag-ahon.












Saturday, April 7, 2018

Tekip Falls In Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet

This is a quick guide for people who want to see Tekip Falls in the town of Bakun in Benguet. Tekip Falls is one of several waterfalls located in Bakun especially within the vicinity of barangay Poblacion. It's one of the most visited falls in the town because it's more picturesque and is much more accessible compared to the other waterfalls in the area.

Just a quick reminder:
If you are thinking of going all the way to Bakun to only see Tekip Falls, I suggest that you widen your itinerary so that you'll get to see more tourist spots in the area. I say this because going to Bakun takes 4 to 7 hours and there's only two buses plying the Poblacion-La Trinidad route. On any given day, one bus leaves La Trinidad en-route to Poblacion while the other one leaves Poblacion en-route to La Trinidad. Both leave between 6:00 am and 8:00 am depending on the number of passengers.

There are no bus trips in the afternoon. That said, your only choice is to stay in Poblacion for the night then catch the bus early in the morning. This is why I'm recommending that you plan your visit to Bakun so that you can spend more time seeing other tourist spots in the town. When we went there on a trip, we set aside three days and two nights. During our stay, we explored Tekip Falls and Pattan Falls and climbed Mt. Kabunyan and Mt. Lubo.

How To Get To Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet
There's a bus that leaves every morning for Poblacion. It's parked at the lot in front of Kenwayne Commercial along Km. 6. It's sandwiched between the Calajo Restaurant and Dap-ayan Restaurant. It leaves for Bakun between 6:00 am and 8:00 am. I highly suggest that you go there as early as 5:30 am to ensure that you are aboard the bus when it leaves. Always remember that it's the only bus that leaves for Poblacion. Bus fare is 185 pesos per passenger. Traveling time can take between 4 to 7 hours. You should take into account your traveling time when planning your itinerary. If you get there early at 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, you can make a quick visit to Tekip Falls since it's only a 30-minute walk away.

Where To Stay In Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet
The old municipal hall is currently being utilized as a base camp for hikers, climbers, and visitors. You can stay there and pay around 80 pesos per head per night. The barangay hall is also being used as a base camp if the old municipal hall is full. But the rate is higher at 150 pesos per head per night. The benefit of staying at the barangay hall is that you can use the kitchen to cook your food. You can use the plates, gas range, and other utensils there. The barangay hall also has a clean bathroom and toiler with a steady supply of fresh water.

Tourist Guide Fee For Tekip Falls
The guide fee is only 300 pesos. A guide can accommodate six individuals which means that you're basically paying 50 pesos each. You also have to pay an environmental fee of 100 pesos per head for the barangay. This is why I suggest that you widen your itinerary so that you can get the most out of your stay in Bakun. As I mentioned earlier, going to Tekip Falls will take you around 30 minutes. You can spend an hour there bathing under the falls and splashing in the pools.




7 Must-See Waterfalls in Benguet

Within a few weeks from now, the rainy season will be bearing upon us at full speed. As water cascades down the hills, mountains, creeks, and streams, our rivers swell to their highest levels. For those looking for a little bit of watery adventure, it’s the perfect time to go chasing waterfalls. So without further ado, I present to you some of the best waterfalls that the province of Benguet has to offer. [Note: This list only includes those waterfalls I’ve personally seen.]

1. Mangta Falls (Bakun) – You have to hike for about an hour from Poblacion, Bakun to reach this waterfall which also happens to be located in the foot of the mountain range that’s topped by Mt. Tenglawan. For thousands of years, the waterfall pounded on the solid rock below creating a small but deep pool of water. Swimming at the pool is not advisable during the rainy season as the waters turn into a churning cesspool of strong and dangerous currents. To get a full view of Mangta Falls, you need to make your way up Mt. Gedgedayan or Mt. Kabunian. You don’t have to climb all the way to the top. Just get to a point in the trail wherein you’re at least within eye-level with the falls.

2. Tekip Falls (Bakun) – Probably one of the best waterfalls I’ve ever personally seen. However, the waterfall is a hit-and-miss. During the summer months, it dries up to the point that all you see is a trickle of water. But during the rainy months, it’s a complete beauty. When bathing under it, you have to be careful because of the pressure and the chance that there may be debris falling along with the water.

3. Bayokbok Falls (Tublay, La Trinidad) – Just a few kilometres away from Poblacion, La Trinidad, Bayokbok is composed of one big waterfall and two smaller layers above it. The waterfall is located just a stone’s throw away from the Asin hot spring. Just make your way to the hanging bridge, follow the trail, hit a small road and ask the locals for the final direction to the waterfall. It’s nice going there during the summer months because the waters turn pristine blue. During the rainy season, the waterfall is a magnificent gurgling beauty but the blue waters are transformed into chocolate brown.

4. Badi Falls (Kapangan) – This is actually a series of more than four picturesque waterfalls. You make your way to the riverbed at the foot of a mountain then slowly creep your way up river. Each waterfall is but several minutes away from each other. We’ve been there a month or so ago and the river current is still decent enough albeit the absence of rains. I’d like to go back there when the rainy season is in full swing and the river current doubles or even triples.

5. Pattan Falls (Bakun) – We made a quick side trip to this waterfall after we summited Mt. Kabunian. The water here is not that strong but apparently it grows dangerously strong during a typhoon. In fact, the hanging bridge which runs across just below it is a mangled mess of twisted metal and wires. I can only presume that it got torn to pieces by the raging waters during a storm.

6. Cooldown Falls (Tublay) – Just like Tekip Falls, this waterfall dries up to a trickle during the summer season. When we went there, it was April I think so there was no water. All that was left was a great pool of stagnant water at the foot of it. Nevertheless, this is a nice side trip for those who visit the Bengaongao and Paterno Caves in Ambongdolan. The waterfall is just a few minutes’ walk away from the entrance to Bengaongao Cave.

7. Pajekpek Falls and Suyok Falls (Dalupirip, Itogon) – I didn’t personally see this waterfall but I’ve heard from a few acquaintances that it’s quite good. I’m taking their word for it. All I know of the waterfall are a couple of photos that I’ve seen online. We were supposed to go there a week or so ago after our hike up Mt. Pigingan but we didn’t have enough time. Supposedly, the waterfall is about an hour away from the section of Agno River at the jump-off point. Dalupirip would be the perfect place for a waterfall. Imagine dipping in the cool waters after a hot and sweaty hike.

So there you go. If you think I missed something or if you have something to add, feel free to chime in at the comments section below.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

PayPal Ending Partnership With GCash?

One thing I completely abhor about the digital age is that all it takes is one disgruntled "tech user" to come up with a rumor and pass it off as fact. I woke up this morning with a lot of chatter among the Filipino freelancing community that PayPal has "officially" ended its business relationship with GCash. According to the rumor, PayPal got tired of the hundreds of complaints it kept on getting from GCash users. So they had to pull the plug.

So I did a little bit of digging. Nope, there's no official announcement that PayPal has indeed severed its relationship with GCash. All I know is that during the last several days, a lot of people have been encountering problems when they attempt to transfer their PayPal funds to their GCash accounts. People had been unable to use the service for days. When asked what's going on, Globe's customer support representatives usually parrot the following answer: "GCash transactions are temporarily unavailable due to emergency maintenance".

Some support representatives went as far as saying that the downtime will only be until February 20. Well, it's already February 21 and the service is still unavailable.

The bottom line here is that GCash is unavailable right now. It has been unavailable for days now. But that doesn't mean the service's partnership with PayPal is over. I say it again, there's no official announcement of the severance. As of now, that's just a rumor.

Here's a copy of a reply of one of GCash's support representatives when asked what's going on: "We're sorry but PayPal to GCash is currently under maintenance until Tuesday. Rest assured that it will be up the next day. Apologies for the inconvenience."