Sunday, September 16, 2012

Amazing Solo Hike to Mt. Balagbag in Rizal

Last Saturday when a coworker invited us to his advance birthday celebration in San Mateo, Rizal, I decided to climb Mt. Balagbag as well to maximize my trip from Laguna. My initial plan was to be at the jump off point in Sitio Karahume by 11:00 am, and do the 2-3 hours ascent via waterfalls trail. However, I need to attend on some family matters earlier that day, so I was only able to leave Binan by 11:30 am.

Arriving at Alphaland Mall in Magallanes by 12:10 pm, I took my lunch there and bought a sandwich for mountain snack. Afterwards, I boarded the MRT train, alighted in Santolan station, then rode a Fairview Tungko-bound bus by 1:10 pm. Bus fare to Tungko is Php 55/person.

Here's the specs of Mt. Balagbag from Pinoy Mountaineer blogsite:

Rodriguez, Rizal
First jumpoff: Sitio Karahume, Brgy. Macabud, Rodriguez
second jumpoff: Sitio Balagbag, Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez
LLA: 777 MASL (unverified)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 1-2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-2

I have read from blog accounts that the last trip from Licao-Licao jump off point to Tungko SJDM (Bulacan) or Rodriguez (Rizal) is 6:00 pm, so I was quite worried if i could climb Mt. Balagbag and still catch the last jeepney trip back at the jump off point. So what happened is like an Amazing Race Hike to the mountain.

2:10 pm
Just arrived at Tungko, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Took a quick washroom break at Shell gas station, before entering the Licao-licao jeepney terminal in the small Dalisay market, sandwiched between the gas station and Banco de Oro branch. I was about to take a photo of the terminal, when I noticed that the jeepney was about to leave as its already full.

To avoid wasting time in waiting for the next jeepney to get full, I boarded the departing jeepney by "sabit", and got seated after 10 minutes when 2 ladies disembarked. Paid Php 27 fare/person. Roads are well paved 98% along the way, as the jeepney crossed the boundary of Bulacan and Rizal provinces.

2:55 pm
Now in Licao-Licao jeepney terminal. Boarded a tricycle which took me to Veterans area, the farthest point where the trike can navigate the rough road. Fare is Php 60. Passed the pandayan (bolo makeshift factory), and a talipapa market where campers can buy meats, seafoods, and other supplies. Taking the trike saved me at least 20 minutes (and effort) of trekking.

Clockwise from the top left photo above are: Sitio Balagbag heath center, talipapa in Veterans, a pair of itik (duck) at the road in talipapa, and the tricycle/jeepney terminal in Licao-Licao after my descent.

3:10 pm
I think I left my face towel on the trike as I disembarked from the vehicle. I saw lots of local people on a store beside a waiting shed. This area became my jump off point, where I started the trek on a steep rough road. I met local boys hauling their charcoal 2-3 sacks at a time from the other side of the mountain.

I also met a group of ascending hikers who stayed on a resort along the way, and a pair of descending hikers as well.  

3:47 pm
Past a gated "private property", the summit is visible at this point. I wonder how someone can own this land, when national laws say that from 16% and above of any mountain slope, its a public land. Anyway like on other parts of the trail, the views get better as I got higher on the mountain.

There is a house on the left side right after the gate, where I registered on a logbook and paid P10. I asked the caretaker if there is a shorter trail, aside from the wide road trail. He instructed me to turn right on a foot trail with overgrown tall grasses, then follow the left-bound trail to the summit. The shortcut can be found on the right side of the photo below.

Here's a view that I could have missed if I hiked at the regular trail.

4:03 pm
Finally arrived at the summit of Mt. Balagbag using the shortcut trail on the left photo. The photo on the right leads to the regular wide trail. Took me 53 minutes of hiking to reach the summit. I guess I achieved my amazing race-type hike!

The summit is also the campsite, which is long enough to accommodate about 15 tents. There is a small hut along the edge of the north portion, where some irresponsible campers left their empty bottles. One disadvantage of hiking alone is that there is no one take my photo with the Sierra Madre mountains as my backdrop. :(

The nice view of Sierra Madre mountain range on the east side, which reminds me of Mt. Batulao.

From the south side, the landscape of Montalban shows some houses and a crater-like portion, probably from erosion or dredged to become a landfill for Manila's solid wastes.

The buildings of Ortigas Center are also visible from the summit if you will look closely.

Mount Arayat in Pampanga is faintly visible on the northwest side, pointed by the arrow.

There are still some mountains between Mt. Arayat and Ortigas Center, which I suspect to be in San Miguel, Bulacan which includes Mt. Manalmon. On the northeast side, there is a neighboring mountain partially hidden by the trees and clouds, but I don't know its name.

4:35 pm
Started my descent where the views are also nice. Along the trail, I almost stepped on the red dragonfly below. Its still moving but very weak, when I tried to transfer it in upright position on a plant nearby.

Met a fellow solo hiker Patrick at this point, who will stay overnight at the summit. He took my photo on the first picture above. The registration hut below with a solar panel that they use for electricity. 

Some more kaingineros with sacks of charcoal they will sell in Montalban market.

5:30 pm
After passing Veterans talipapa and pandayan, I entered a house with a signage that leads to the waterfalls for P 5 entrance fee. Parking is P15. Its a long and steep downward trail to the waterfalls!

Evidence of charcoal-burning area along the river bank. This is one of the reasons why Mt. Balagbag and the rest of Sierra Madre mountain range have been loosing their forest cover. If this practice along with logging goes unabated, the river will dry up, and more flooding will result in Marikina and Cainta areas during rainy season.

Finally saw the nice cascading waterfalls, unmindful of big mosquitoes that bite me.

The clear water looks inviting, so I washed up my face and legs. It proved to be quite a mistake, as I experienced leg cramp as I tried to run on my way up.

5:50 pm
Back to the road trail after exhausting ascent from the waterfalls. I tried to walk faster to catch the 6:00 pm last trip of the jeepney.

6:05 pm
Arrived back to Licao-Licao jeepney terminal but the 6:00 pm trip had already left. Good thing that there is a jeepney that would still go back to Tungko, as its a weekend and the driver expects some more locals and mountaineers as his passengers back to Licao-Licao. Took a snack break in a variety store, consumed my packed sandwich as post-hike treat to alleviate my hunger.

6:30 pm
Left Licao-Licao and back to Tungko, SJDM by 7:10 pm.

It was a nice and rewarding day hike, inspite of limited time, hehe.

Bookmark this post:
StumpleUpon DiggIt! Yahoo Technorati Google Twitter FaceBook


  1. wow, next time pasama ako sa pagbalik mo noel at maaga para maraming time. taga montalban ako pero nde ko napupuntahan yan at malayo rin kasi ang licao licao.

    1. Hi, Jinjiruks. Sure, I will post here if i will come back to Mt. Balagbag, so you can join me. But since its too far from Laguna, matatagalan pa siguro akong makakabalik diyan. Thanks.

  2. nice adventure ganda ng sidetrip jan.

  3. Replies
    1. Hi, Isabelle. Yes, this is an easy hike even for beginners. Just start very early or late afternoon to avoid the sun's heat, as the trail is exposed.

  4. ano po ba kakikitang mga hayop dyn sa mt.balagbag at kung ano ba mga puno o halaman ang meron dyn


    1. Unfortunately due to rampant logging and "kaingin" activities in the area, only a few birds and plants can be seen on the trail. However, there are reports of wild animals seen on the neighboring Mt. Maranat and Sierra Madre mountain range.