Yesterday, we trekked through my first Philippine mountain: Mt. Palay-Palay or Pico De Loro, a popular peak situated within the Mounts Palay-Palay–Mataas-na-Gulod Protected Landscape. At 664masl, it’s the highest point in Cavite, and the hike to the summit affords an uninhibited view of Cavite and Batangas, as well as the South China sea.
It’s called a “beginner’s mountain,” perfect for introducing newbies to a little bit of everything: trekking through foliage, a 360-view from the flat, wide summit, rock climbing via the monolith, and traversing if you opt to go down through the Nasugbu side.
Going there is easy and affordable; if you’re coming from Metro Manila you’ll only need to shell out about P700-P800 for roundtrip bus fare, park fees, water, tricycles and food. But since I went there with a group of 16, we hired a van and rode my friend Mina’s car. Cash out was more or less the same.
Here was our itinerary:
4:00: Meet-up at Blue Wave Marikina (we picked up a few people in Alabang).
7:30: Arrived at the DENR Jump-off along the highway in Ternate, Cavite. Because it was a long weekend, the queue was pretty long. We paid an entrance fee of P25 each, entered our names into the log, and paid P50 parking fee for our two vehicles.
7:30-11:30 Hiked to Mt. Palay-Palay summit. It was a rainy morning, so the ground was a little slippery. The trail is easily readable, though, so it’s not hard to trek. A bonus of the rainy weather was the cool breeze (less sweat!) and the fog which covered everything in a magical mist. Branches and vines are also there to provide stability if you don’t have a walking stick. On the trail, you’ll see beautiful, dense foliage. At one resting point, there was a man selling taho!
11:30 – We reached the base camp! Here, we realized just how many people actually were on the trail today. I would estimate at least 500 climbers that day! Everyone was taking selfies and we could see the long line of people clambering up the hook-nosed summit and the monolith. It looked scary (for me), but we were excited. We decided to skip lunch to try to beat the long lines.
12:45 – Climbed the summit. It’s actually just a quick trip from the base camp, but the overcrowding on the almost-vertical ascent slowed everyone down. A strong wind was also blowing dust into our eyes. We didn’t stay long at the summit and decided to hike down to the monolith after a few minutes.
12:00 – There’s a queue going to the Monolith. While waiting for our turn, we decided to have lunch while perched on the rocks. We just stuffed our trash back into our bags to avoid littering.
1:30 – Finally, our turn to climb the monolith. As a first-timer, I assure you that it’s way easier than it looks: from the flat “steps,” guides are in place to help you rappel to the back of the rock wall. From there, a quick clamber to the summit. It feels very scary at first, and you’d need willpower and faith in your hands and feet. But it’s doable!
I think it would have felt less dangerous if there were no people also hugging the rock wall, waiting to go down – it made the path much narrower than usual.
The view at the monolith is super beautiful! Nakaka-addict. Usually, people would climb the monolith in two groups, para they’d take each other’s photos from the summit and monolith and vice versa. But because of the overcrowding, that wasn’t an option. Some of our companions also didn’t feel like climbing even the summit and just waited / stayed at base camp.
2:00 – Time to go down the monolith! Instead of backtracking to the jump-off, we decided to traverse down and exit through Nasugbu, Batangas. We didn’t want to descend the overcrowded summit again. We had merienda at the entrance of the traverse while waiting for everyone to get down the monolith (again, it was taking longer than usual because of the crowd – people coming up / going down in batches).
2:30 – Started traverse through the mountain. Trail was slightly more difficult, but it was drier. It was much narrower (at some points a mere 12 inches) but still easily readable.
4:00 – Arrived at a clearing where there was a sari-sari store and a bathing station. We ate the rest of our snacks, then finished the journey.
4:30 – Arrived at the MSDC training grounds, the end of the trail. We originally thought of taking a tricycle back to Ternate, but fare was 150/person! We decided to ask our van to come pick us up instead. He arrived a little after 5pm.
5:30 – Stopover near the tunnel and a view of Nasugbu beach for photos.
6:30 – Depart for Manila. We had dinner along the SLEX and arrived back in Marikina by 9:30.
Some final notes / observations:
- This is really the perfect peak for beginners like me!
- What I packed in my 25L day pack: 500ml water (I had to refill), trail mix, sandwiches, chocolate, chips, wafers, towel, change of clothes, a first-aid kit. Obviously that was too much food – but it meant that I had more to share. To lessen plastic waste, bring a 1.5 to 2.5 L water pack.
- Good shoes will help. I noticed a lot of trekkers wearing running shoes and even Tom’s slip-ons (!). They say it’s OK, but this is not advisable. It’s OK for the trails, but for the almost-vertical parts near the summit and the monolith where you’ll need sure footing, you need good shoes. The soil is a little bit loose already, too.
- Bring your own packed lunch, since you’re sure to get hungry. The base camp sells stuff like noodles and eggs, but they’ll be understandably pricey. Stuff your trash back in your bag!
- Like most popular spots in the PH nowadays, skip the long holidays for these kinds of plans (sad, yes). You’ll by encounter crowds and queues which can slow down your itinerary, plus, the experience would not be as surreal, which is the whole point of getting away from the city! I wish the DENR could set a “maximum” limit of trekkers every day so that the adventurers could still enjoy the view and the trail won’t be over-used. And to avoid inconvenience, they can use social media for advisories.
- Advice from my friend Mara: if you want to avoid crowds and make the experience even more magical, start your hike at dawn to get a sunrise view.
After my first trek in the Himalayas for an unexpected work assignment, I was a “changed person.” Before, I never actually saw myself climbing mountains for fun. I think my old self would’ve said no to the monolith! But I guess the adventure bug bites you really hard. Now I want to climb more and more peaks! 🙂
All photos taken with a Samsung Galaxy Note 5