Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mt. Tagapo 2012

Mt. Tagapo 2012
by Ivan Ignacio

It was a promising day for The BACKPACKERS and friends. Despite the storm signal brought by tropical storm Ofel one to two days ago, Mr. Sunshine was unexpectedly smiling that morning. We gathered and met our guests outside McDonalds in EDSA Central. We all knew each other except for our first time guest, Miss Weng Bulaon of 'Byaheng Jologs Lakwatsera' blog. Her love for nature trips stopped several years ago due to a change in life's priority. But this year, she is coming back to what she loves: travelling. After twenty years, her comeback climb is with The BACKPACKERS. Altogether, we journeyed via chartered jeepney to the town of Binangonan, Rizal. All were excited about conquering this mountain compared by Dr. Jose P. Rizal to a maiden's breast: Mt. Tagapo.

Miss Weng of Byaheng Jologs' Revival Climb
Mt. Tagapo is an easy and accessible minor climb near the metropolis. It is nestled in the heart of Talim Island in Binangonan, Rizal. Locals, with the influence of Jose Rizal's description, label this with the moniker 'Suso Ng Dalaga' pertaining to its breastlike shape. You have to ride a passenger boat crossing from the hectic Pritil port to the equally busy and quaint barangays scattered around the island. Most of the barangays in the island have trails towards the mountain's summit but the most famous in the mountaineering community is the one managed by Brgy. Janosa.

The group had lunch at Jollibee Binangonan which is a good five to ten minute walk from Pritil Port. It was also a nice venue for us to bond prior to commencing the climb.

Bonding over lunch @ Jollibee Binangonan
BP Jovy's Happy Halloween

A flooded Binangonan
When it was time to head to the port, I was surprised to see what happened to the area near the port: it was flooded with dark and dirty water. Tropical Storm Ofel passed through the Philippine territory, with devastating effects in the Southern Tagalog region. And our destination was not excluded from getting the storm's wrath. Laguna Lake rose to a higher level flooding the lakeside towns. Passing through the makeshift bridge made us witness the damage that the storm wreaked in the town's center. It was a nice conscious effort from the townsfolk to construct this bamboo bridge  extending up to the port. The wooden bridge was also branching out so that people can get access to the stores affected by the flood. In this manner, the businesses in the area will not fully suffer the consequences of this flood.

Boats docked waiting for passengers can consume much of your itinerary. These passenger boats also tend to stop by several barangays before Brgy. Janosa to drop and pick up passengers. Some larger groups opt to charter one of the boats to take them directly to Barangay Janosa. In our case, we opted to wait for an hour and fifteen minutes before our boat left for Talim Island. 

The BACKPACKERS and friends aboard the boat
BPs Angel, Jovy and Frank
Angel's Halloween Costume

The barangays surrounding Talim Island also had to manage the effects of the rising lake water by constructing bridges for the passengers coming in and out of the island. The regular pathways were eaten by the lake and can no longer be seen. Even the basketball court of the barangays were flooded.

We arrived at Brgy. Janosa after an hour of boat ride. We quickly registered at the barangay hall and after another round of photo ops, we started the trek.

Arriving @ Talim Island
In front of the church at Brgy. Janosa

The first phase was considerably easy. We had to hike alongside a stream which had running water during that time. It is usually dry but I guess the storm gave it life this time. It was a gradual incline until we reached an intersection of trail. The correct path to get you to Mt. Tagapo is the left trail. Some hikers get lost in this intersection. After five to ten minutes is another fork. Deviate from the straight trail and take the right, upward trail. Going straight will take you to other lower peaks as described by a friend of mine who got lost  once during a night trek.

The start of the trail
Straight line

Meet Sir Gerald and Sir Resty
We had one road block during this part when our camp water slipped from Nickson's grip and fell into the ravine. The group was then divided into two. The first half was asked to push through to save us some camp space while the rest waited when me and Heinz tried to retrieve our camp water. 

Sir Freddie and BP Jovy at the assault

The right, upward trail marks the second phase in a typical Mt. Tagapo hike. The trail will become straightforward until you reach the clearing marked by the sharp talahib plants. This phase has steep parts and is ascending all throughout. This is where your sweat will start to drip as you try to catch your breath. But in comparison to the assault especially from other major mountains, this one is easy and very manageable. 


I caught up in the trail with Ma'am Weng who despite the challenge, was feeling positive and excited especially when we reached the clearing. She was amazed by the view of the towns and the lake below, and the green pasture of the sights above the mountain; these views she missed for twenty years. 

Almost there!
We reached camp after two hours of hiking. The campsite in Mt. Tagapo changes from time to time. One factor is that the overgrowth tends to bloom fast especially during the season when lesser hikers explore the mountain. The nearest campsite that time, as expected, was smaller. It already had four campers when we arrived. We had to settle to a second small open space as we had lots of tents to accommodate.  

The ladies doing some kitchen work
Sir Gerald's birthday shot
After setting up our camp and establishing our socials ground, the girls took charge of the kitchen. We had the most delicious pork and chicken adobo prepared by BP Jovy which was the box office hit that night. We also prepared hotdog and red egg for that night. After eating our sumptuous dinner, we had our socials. We were all guided by a beautiful full moon with sights of several meteors in the sky. It also turned out to be Sir Gerald's post birthday celebration. We met Sir Gerald last month in Mt. Banoi and I was surprised to learn that he came all the way from Baguio. He repeated the routine, this time in Mt. Tagapo, and what was flattering was him choosing to celebrate his birthday in the mountain with The BACKPACKERS. Cheers and thank you, Sir Gerald! After a couple of shots and a handful of insights and laughter, and personally realizing that GSM Blue and C2 Lemon is not a good combination, we hit the hay at around 2AM.

This was our kitchen circle
Dinner is served


The morning of the second day was as promising as the day before. The sun was radiantly highlighting the contours of the summit. Everyone geared up for the much awaited assault to the summit.

Assaulting to the summit; Sir Gerald, Sir Paul and BP Angel
When we arrived one by one at the summit, everyone stopped, breathed and marveled at the beauty of the views around. We could see the nearby mountains that we have conquered: Mts. Sembrano, Makiling and Cristobal. The view of Mt. Banahaw and Banahaw de Lucban was also a delight. But moreso, we understood why the island was named Talim; because we were able to trace its dagger shape from the 360 degree view at the summit of Mt. Tagapo. Everyone relaxed, bonded and appreciated the beauty of Mt. Tagapo!

King, Mina, Gerald and Paul
Angel, Ivan, Heinz and Jovy
Marion's jump for joy at the summit
Ma'am Weng and Chons' jump for joy
Who killed Sir Freddie
Lovers atop Mt. Tagapo: Ivan and Angel
Weng, Resty, ES and Anna
Nick's pose of triumph

We all indeed had fun posing on top of Mt. Tagapo!

Thank you to all our guests
Gerald, Mina, Weng, Freddie, Nickson, Paul, Resty and ES

The BACKPACKERS in Mt. Tagapo
Anna, Chons, Marion, Heinz, Jovy, Ivan, Angel and King

Before breaking camp

We descended from the summit and broke camp after eating a quick brunch. From the intersection, instead of turning right to Brgy. Janosa, we went for the straight trail to visit BP Chons' organization at San Damiano in Brgy. Sapang. It was a longer trail as compared to the regular route but after reaching the place, the exhaustion was swept away by the relaxing ambiance that San Damiano gave us. Some opted to sleep; and with its cool environment, they definitely had a satisfying nap! We also had access to several restrooms and a big dining area. Thank you to the hospitable people of San Damiano!

San Damiano Pictures

BPs Marion, Jovy and Chons

BP Angel and Sir Nick

The monkey
Annalyn at the art gallery
BPs Chons and Heinz at the gallery
At the art gallery

BP Chons with Gerald, the caretaker of St. Joseph art gallery

It was another exciting and satisfying adventure
for The BACKPACKERS and friends!

Fun fun fun inside the boat

The breathtaking sunset by the lake


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