Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mt. Tangisan

For the JUNE Adventure of The BACKPACKERS, we journeyed to the mountainous part of Central Luzon: San Jose, Tarlac. This place is no stranger to The BACKPACKERS as we explored the same location during our August 2011 Mt. Bungkol Baka climb. This time, our eyes were set on the nearby Mt. Tangisan.

Angelica Cawaling
April Bedana
Liz Honrade
Dennis Piano
Heinz Alvarez Jr
Ivan Ignacio
Kenji Revoltiado
Mau Mauleon
York Advento

The Guests:
Cynel Reyes
Look up, Guests!

Ever Leono
Isabel Fonte
Leah Nogoy
Ninya Alday
Aaron Quime
Adrian Arias 
Chad Planea
Erwin Adami
Kenneth San Diego
Rexie Vergara


Contrary to its name, there is no crying at Mt. Tangisan as this is just a minor climb. It is actually the  easiest and shortest among the five mountains offered by the vicinity for the climbing enthusiasts. Its proximity to the jump off point is very apparent as you will quickly get a glimpse of its totality once you have entered the village of the Abeling tribe community. In actuality, the green Mt. Tangisan is just at the back of the community road where the houses are lined up.

Mt. Tangisan which translates to sorrow, is actually named after a tree that thrived in its slopes decades or centuries ago. The tribe would describe it as tall, leafy and sturdy; and was once a great raw material source in the area. Unfortunately, 'was' is the verb because no matter how sturdy  this tree was, it did not stand the test of time. There are no more Tangisan trees in the area. The only legacy of its colorful history is the mountain that has the honor of carrying the name of these once abundant trees.

The man made lake, with the vista of the San Jose mountains. 
Mt. Kawayan to the left and the prominent cow's hump of Mt. Bungkol Baka to the right

Mt. Tangisan is a piece in a possible three peaks hike in San Jose, Tarlac. This is becoming more and more popular these days. Recently posted in pinoymountaineer is an itinerary for the Kawayan-Bungkol Baka-Tangisan trio for mountaineers who love to challenge themselves. They would tend to hop from Mt. Tangisan before the two far mountains. The Abeling tribe however recommends Mt. Tangisan to be the finishing point of a San Jose three peaks hike. Kuya Johnny, the tribe's chieftain mentioned several aborted expeditions because when the climb party reaches Mt. Bungkol Baka, some of its members are already exhausted, thus foregoing Mt. Kawayan. The logic here is to go and spend your energy in the farthest mountain first, then reserve Mt. Tangisan as the culminating peak as it is just very close to the Abeling village.


Kuya Johnny - the Abeling tribe's chieftain wearing their official uniform
Sitio San Pedro, San Jose, Tarlac is the jump off point to all the mountains in the area. The small community is the location of the the Abeling Tribe's village. Kuya Johnny, our primary contact, is the tribe's chieftain. As of this writing, he, along with fourteen of his tribe mates are the members of U.G.A.T. or the United Guides of Abeling Tribe. All of them underwent accreditation from the government and the tourism office of Tarlac. Before being officially granted the guideship in the area, they had to undergo several seminars and tests. The last test was an actual exploration with mountaineers in the dense forests of the mountains in the area. Aside from hiking, they can also engage the visitors in survival guide training, waterfalls exploration and even bird watching.

Kuya Johnny is one of the most humble and nicest chieftain I have met in my life. His abode has been a favorite place of the mountaineers to hang out before and/or after the climb. He, his wife and the guides are some of the most hospitable people, brandishing a true trait of the Filipinos. We first met him during our Mt. Bungkol Baka climb, and up to now, he still remembers us. Several months after our Mt. Bungkol Baka climb, I was walking along Quirino Avenue in Manila when a familiar jolly face approached and greeted me, it was Kuya Johnny! I was even embarrassed that I forgot where I met him and in which mountain adventure. He was apparently invited by Senator Loren Legarda in a special convention in Manila with the other minority heads across the country. I admire him because he has a special memory and genuine recognition to those who visit their place.

A hot topic in the mountaineering scene is the mandating of guides in some of our favorite mountains. My heart goes on  to some of these mountain destination but definitely not in Sitio San Pedro, San Jose. For me, I see it as a way of helping the tribe in this rustic community. Acting as local mountain guides has been one of their sources of living aside from farming. So regardless of whether it's my second or twentieth time here, I would still adhere to the policy as the Abeling Tribe has certainly caught my heart and respect. After all, they just mandate a reasonable 350Php guide fee for a group of ten people for a one-day trip. And aside from that, they do not collect registration fees. Plus the fact that they are trained and tested prove that the climb party is in good hands when with them.


We met at Worldwide Corporate Center in Shaw Boulevard. At 10AM, the group proceeded to pick up some guests along the way. Since we hired a van and brought another private transport, the road to San Jose, Tarlac was puzzling. We found ourselves U-turning to the correct route. But once we got the specific instructions and landmarks from Kuya Johnny himself, it was smooth going.

After the exit at Tarlac City, we trudged the national highway en route to the mountainous town of San Jose. It was surprising to see that our GPS system was not able to help us as it could not recognize the roads in the town! And by this, you'll have an understanding that San Jose is one of the most rustic towns in the whole of Tarlac.

The green town of San Jose, Tarlac
But that was perfectly fine! We love peaceful remote areas like this. When we turned right to an unprecedented rough road, the scenery became greener, the air fresher and the mood lighter. It was just so quaint and quiet. The houses in the community showed up one by one and BP April could not contain her amazement after noticing the pattern of the structure. The tribe capitalizes on the veranda or their terrace as these parts are wide and spacious. Then what's really housed is a small room covered by nipa and wood. This goes to show that the Abeling Tribe loves hanging out with their fellow tribesmen.


Look Up Group photo with Kuya Johnny (in yellow shirt)

We were welcomed by Kuya Johnny and parked our service in front of his house. His house has been our haven whenever we check out the mountains in the region. After the distribution of load, I gathered the group for a prayer which was led by guest Leah who was culminating her birthday month celebration. After the prayer for guidance, Kuya Johnny discussed an interesting history of his tribe, the area and the mountain that we were about to conquer. I will not spoil these stories for you as you need to find these for yourselves once you get to execute an adventure here. Finally, Kuya Johnny introduced our guides, Kuya Jojie and Kuya Pat.

The climb started under a surprisingly radiant sky. We soon found ourselves tramping across the trail sandwiched by small terraces and rice fields. Our first stop was at the Pangasaan Dam. We took pictures before continuing with the hike. Once you are immersed inside the town, you will be captivated by the simplicity and beauty of the surrounding that it's never bothersome to stop and stare.

The trail detoured in that familiar fork where the straight trail was heading to Mts. Bungkol Baka and Kawayan, while the not so obvious right turn was the way to Mt. Tangisan. This was a strategic point because the guide led us to the trail with a less exhausting and gradual assault. That is why we had to trek until Pangasaan Dam, thus arching around the circumference of the base of the mountain. Once we officially entered the foot of Mt. Tangisan, the thick bushes and dense plants were literally slapping our faces as we hiked. The most important precaution in taking this trail is the presence of the talahib - grasses which are really, very sharp! Gloves are definitely recommended. We also had to go under a barbed wire, erected to prevent cows from getting into the upper portion of the mountain. The trail was relatively easy. It is recommended for beginners as compared to the other hiking destination in the area. On trail management: The lead pack had me (BP Ivan), BP Mau and his guests and Sirs Aaron and Rexie. Trailing in the middle were the girls Leah and Isabel who felt very comfortable bonding and laughing along the trail with BPs Angel, April, Liz and DeePee. We could literally hear their laughter and voices in front! This was Isabel's first climb, as well as with Mau's guests. BP York loved the journey with his pal Ninya while chatting and reminiscing high school life. The gentlemen were the sweepers led by BP Heinz.

While resting on a hill with a magnificent vista, the thing that we dreaded the most started to appear before our eyes: droplets of water came down from the sky! The previously radiant sky was slowly being obstructed by dark, angry clouds. Then in a typical mountain climbing fashion, the rain poured while we were on a beautiful rugged green slope. Thunder even accompanied the rain as if we were not abashed by the constant downpour. Much to our chagrin, we had to halt for a good fifteen minutes as there was not really a dense forest to shadow you in Mt. Tangisan. The guide told us to wait because we were almost on top and the wind was blowing like crazy. Fortunately, after half an hour of big downpour, the rain subsided and we were greeted again by the astounding vista of the town below.

There's a great vista always after the rain


A serene sunset witnessed at Mt. Tangisan
The lead pack reached the campsite at around 5:45PM shortly followed by the rest who took a long Take-Five in a nice resting spot in the trail. There was one major concern in the campsite which made me question the barbed wire in the lower portion of the trail: there were cow poops everywhere! And of different sizes and texture - there were small ones, extra small, medium, large and extra large (as in as large as a birthday cake!), some were hot, some were cold, but regardless of which, we had to take care of these bombs as it was the only place where we can secure our tents. I initiated the whole clean up idea and soon followed by Leah. We picked up the poops using a trash bag and once the area was slightly cleared of these foul obstructions, we started pitching our tents.

This is Ever Queen's first climb!
...and also for Guest couple Cynel and Kenneth!
The people in charge of the kitchen started their work as the others either bonded with each other or dozed off. When dinner was prepared, it was again unfortunate that rain poured down. BPs Mau, DeePee, York, Liz and April had to work as delivery crews as they had to bring in a plateful of food to the tents lined up in the campsite. Good thinking guys! But just like earlier, the rain stopped eventually just in time for the socials! I was sleeping during the first hour of the socials, and it was BP Heinz who initiated and gathered the group. He led and started the BACKPACKERS' socials rituals. When I woke up, rain has completely stopped and me and BP Angel were the only ones absent so we joined in the fun.

The socials had the guests and The BACKPACKERS introducing themselves to one another. Although it was a minor climb, we opted not to bring in too much booze, (which we felt and regretted during socials.) We had shortage of booze but it did not stop us from bonding until 3AM. Our guest Chad was certainly the life of the party with his cool antics and funny remarks. It was a night to remember atop Mt. Tangisan because for most of the guests, this was either their first or second climb. For one night only, accountant Leah became a teacher; Isabel, Ninya and Adrian were short sighted when they did not successfully grasped the "Magdadala Ako Ng..." game, Ahmmm, better luck next time, Isabel! Erwin became fond and focused on his red light district and BP Mau was shockingly not one of the socials survivors. It was the first time that BP Mau wooed in some guests in the form of his high school buddies Cynel and Ever. Aaron cracked some Aling Dionisia jokes which made everyone laugh. All the fun happened while we were in front of a sleeping BP Heinz. We hit the hay at 3AM when rain was starting to tease us again.


And we woke up that morning feeling the effects of a gritty weather. Typhoon Goryo was confidently crossing the Philippine territory. The sky was very blurred like we were trapped in the twilight zone. The wind was blowing arrogantly around the campsite and through the trees. I thought we were in for a wet descent. But luckily, at around 9:30AM, the angry weather cooled off, and gave us a refreshing morning view atop Mt. Tangisan, with the dew and the remnants of fog around. It was actually a windy but nice morning.

BP Kenji and BP April worked hand in hand to cook the chicken soup which was superb! Just right to warm our chilling bodies, and not to mention it was very delicious too! After sipping a cup of coffee and doing some photo ops in the camp site, we broke camp because of the unpredictable weather.

The BACKPACKERS in Mt. Tangisan campsite

Isabel, Angel and Leah

BP Mau and his masterpiece raincoat

BP Liz and her new tent!
But before truly heading down, we detoured in one vista which is one of Mt. Tangisan's bragging rights - its summit view deck. From there we saw the melancholic combination of plains, field and mountains in the surrounding area. Plus the man made lake which completed the circle in this awesome Tarlac town.

And of course, here are our photo ops courtesy of BP Liz:

Let's start with BP April and that smile of delight
High school buddies Ninya and BP York
Guests Isabel and Leah: girl power!
BP couple Angel and Ivan
Erwin and BP Mau loving the view
BPs DeePee, Heinz and Kenji
Guests Aaron, Rexie, Adrian and Chad


After lining up to enjoy the view deck, we started the descent. The general principle is that in each climb, going down is faster and easier than going up. But we experienced the opposite of this in Mt. Tangisan because our descent was more difficult because of the heavy rain that morning. The path became very much muddy and it was hard to navigate through the trail. People were slipping and sliding one after the other. The most prominent slide would be guest Rexie's because he would tend to laugh first, literally seconds before the slide. The tricky part whenever a slide's impending was preventing ourselves from accidentally holding onto the cogon grasses. Its leaves were as sharp as a blade and I even got three cuts just by merely touching these.

Muddy trail
The short distance of Mt. Tangisan to the jump off point was a relief because no sandals/trek shoes were able to avoid the mud. After going out of the forest, each strides seemed to be a race to get to the wash station at Kuya Johnny's place. Mt. Tangisan conquered!

Everyone became busy washing the last dirt off their clothes or skin at Kuya Johnny's comfort room and water well. The others spearheaded the last task which was to cook our lunch. Kuya Johnny advised me that next time we conquer a San Jose mountain, we should just advise him and his wife our target meal so that they'll cook it while we are away so that it will be served as soon as we return. Thanks Kuya Johnny and that is noted!

Ivan the BP Lead and Kuya Jonny the UGAT Lead
Doing the dishes

After eating lunch, we bade goodbye to Kuya Johnny and the beautiful town of San Jose, Tarlac... We will definitely be back for either Mt. Fuangi or Mt. Kawayan!


We hired a van and BP Kenji brought Bubu Chacha in this adventure. The people inside Bubu Chacha, me included, decided to check at the Monastery of Tarlac which was just in the area. Following the cemented road instead of the rough road to the Abeling village will get you to the religious place. And to our delight, it was worth the visit as we saw another grand vista of the surroundings. A colorful garden was scattered throughout the walkway which lead to a big statue of Christ. It was a very defining moment being on top of the monastery with Christ, and His open hands facing the beautiful circle of San Jose, Tarlac mountains.

BPs Ivan and Kenji at Monasterio de Tarlac
BPs April, Angel and Liz and the view seen from the Monasterio
Statue of Christ in Monasterio de Tarlac

BP DeePee's coffee pictorial at Cafe France

It was just a short stop at the monastery. The five of us headed home. But it looked like the Mt. Tangisan adventure was not over yet when we bumped into the group carried by the van in a stopover along NLEX. The bonding continued and BP Kenji handed out free coffee from Cafe France for everybody! Thank you Sir Kenji!

Thank you for the coffee which paved way for the extended bonding Sir Kenji!!!

Photo credits: Liz, Erwin and Ivan

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