From Summit to Sea: Mt. Balingkilat to Talisayen Cove
June 3, 2018
Hi! Last May 12 and 13, I went with my friends to a skin-darkening, thirst-inducing and stamina-draining hike to the beautiful but extremely hot Mt. Balingkilat, my 55th mountain. Mountain Stats
Elevation: 1,100+ MASL
Location: Subic, Zambales
Trek to Summit: 5 hours
Each one of us knew the usual weather condition in the Cawag Coastal Mountains, that is, very hot, so we made sure to come really prepared. However, it still holds true that no matter how prepared a person is, the real situation will still prove to be a tad more difficult. Luckily, we were rewarded with the best views at the top which made everything worthwhile. Read on below to know more about this trip.
For everyone’s use, I have summarized our transportation details and all our expenses in the tables below:
TOTAL PER PERSON (11 pax)
ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME
TOTAL PER PERSON (13 pax*)
ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME
TOTAL PER PERSON (11pax | 13pax*)
Guide Fee (1:5, overnight = Php2,000)
Talisayen Resort Entrance with Cottage
Food and other supplies
*Contact Number for the guide and other arrangements: Sir Jimmy Ablong (Chieftain) – 0921 954 3215
Note that you would need the Chieftain’s permission to climb up the Cawag Coastal Mountains because he is the one who arranges the guides and optional boat.
Safe Budget: P2,500
Day 0: Happy Reunion
In this trip, I was with my regular group of friends – #SOMO and because it has been a while since our last hike together, it felt great to see them at the meet up point in Victory Liner Cubao.
We had no tickets prior to this trip so that made us chance passengers but it was after an hour after that we were able to ride the bus going to Olongapo. The trip was smooth except for the fact that there were several passengers who did not stop talking loudly all throughout the trip considering the time of travel is conducive to sleep.
Note: In a public place, manners are very important as the space is shared with other people. Be sensitive enough to know the do’s and don’ts in a certain situation
Day 1: It Doesn’t Get Hotter Than This
Upon arriving in Olongapo around 1:55AM, we settled at a nearby Jollibee to eat early breakfast and restock on our water. I brought a trusty thermos with me because I wanted to prolong the coldness of my drink considering we were going to face a very hot mountain.
We then rode a jeepney to Subic where we registered and submitted our letter of intent (this time, there is no need to bring a letter because the police station already has a format that the group will just fill up) before riding the tricycle to the registration points and walking to the jump-off.
We officially started our hike around 4:50AM, an hour and fifty minutes late from our itinerary. Nonetheless, we looked forward to hiking with our headlights on. It was not more than an hour after when the sun began to rise and we started to take photos of the landscape.
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at Kawayanan which is the last water source all the way to the summit. Note that after this part, the trail will now be mostly assaults all the way up to the campsite. This means, the real hike starts beyond Kawayanan.
And by real hike, aside from the assaults, I also mean…the heat.
It was just a little past 6:00AM and yet I was already sweating bullets and I was already starting to feel a little uncomfortable but it was still manageable thanks to the good view of the coast.
As the sun further rose, the heat also became more and more uncomfortable that I had to remove my cover up to feel less hot even though it meant not being able to cover my arms throughout the hike up.
We made several stops whenever we could to rehydrate and munch on our trail food. The trail, alone is really not difficult. It is the extreme heat that makes Mt. Balingkilat difficult to climb.
It was around 8:00AM that I decided to use my umbrella to aid me from the heat and save my arms from getting browner than they already are. While it really did help reduce the heat I was feeling, I had a bit of trouble getting through the tall grasses and bamboo shoots. Sometimes, I found myself closing the umbrella just to be able to pass specific areas, mostly those that require two hands to climb up.
I could not remember the number of times we asked the guide if we were near already because we just could not wait to have a bigger shade to rest properly.
The obvious mark that states the close proximity of the campsite is the beautiful field of tamed grass with dandelion-like plants. Here is also where we took several photos overlooking the coast.
When we arrived at the campsite just before 10:00AM, we immediately looked for the kawayan shade my hikemates talked about. When we found it, we immediately found our place and ate early lunch before trying to get some sleep in while waiting for the others to arrive.
It took a while for the others to arrive because, apparently, they faced a bit of difficulty because of the heat: one got leg cramps, one also started to feel dizzy and the other puked. This was also why we stayed longer at the campsite, to give ample time for everyone to recover.
Around 12:30, the group resumed the quick 10-min trek to the summit where we were lucky enough to get a big shade casted by the beautiful clouds for a long time. We stayed at the top for a while because apart from the views being superb, I guess being at the summit just gives us an exhilarating feeling.
After about an hour, we started our descent to Talisayen Cove, which can be seen from the summit – and yes, it is as far as it looks, unfortunately. The first part of the descent is immediately steep, each of us using both our hands to get down from one rock/boulder to the other. What made it difficult were the tall grasses that blocked our view of where to step next. This steep descent went on for the next two hours with the heat, again, being the cause of exhaustion. Unlike our ascent, the shade in the descent was far more scarce with a tree (key word is “a” meaning, there is only one tree) being present after every hour, which is already a long time considering how our stamina was draining extra fast because of the heat.
During the descent, I was also not able to use my umbrella for the first two hours because I needed both hands to go down from one boulder to another. Eventually, the descent became less steep and I was able to go down with me being able to now use my umbrella.
With most of us having little water left, our guide made us look forward to the river where we can refill our bottles. Getting there was the tricky part. From the beginning of the descent, I mentioned that the tall grasses made it difficult to see the path where we were going, right? Apparently, there really is no established trail going to Talisayen Cove because there are not much people going here from Mt. Balingkilat. Each of us were on our own on deciding where to pass so long as we get to where our guide was. After the very open trail, we had to pass inside a forest of sort to look for the river. It was not flowing making the risk of it being dirty higher. But out of desperation, we still refilled our bottles.
We also took this opportunity to wash our faces and wet our clothes to feel cool. From the river, we still had an hour to go before we reach Talisayen Cove but this time, it was already bearable because it was late in the afternoon and the sun was not as bothering anymore. However, this did not change the fact that we were already tired. On this last stretch going to Talisayen Cove, we made sure to stick together and follow our guide since there was no trail. We also kept leaving cairns or trail markers so that those at the sweeper group would not be lost.
And finally, when we saw cottages, we let out a sigh of relief for being able to finish the trek…or so we thought.
Apparently, our reserved cottage was still at the far end of the cove. The far. end. of. the cove. That meant still walking on sand for about ten minutes. I guess it still was not done yet.
And when we spotted our friends who were in the beach already (two of them went straight to the beach and did not hike), this time, we let out a sigh of sure relief and congratulated each other for finishing the hike!
Socials followed as soon as everyone was there. We had delicious tuna pasta, soup and liempo for dinner and took turns bathing before finally sleeping in our pitched tents in preparation for the fun day the following morning.
Day 2: #TimeToSwim
The breakfast team, me included, woke up early to prepare the food – egg omelette, corned beef, noodles and bacon. With the sight of the beach in front and the sight of the mountains behind us, we looked back at the hot day we had the previous day and the cool one we were having that morning.
After eating our breakfast, we went straight to the beautiful, blue sea to swim and play. And although it was hot, the water felt nice to our skin which was why we stayed there for a while and everyone seemed to enjoy the sea coming from an excruciating hike the day before.
Our chartered boat arrived around 2:00PM and before we left, we made sure to buy mangoes from the nearby store. The owners decided to give all their mangoes away because they were already ripe and they just had too much too sell. #Lucky
It took almost an hour for us to reach Pundaquit from Talisayen. We just fixed up for a bit before taking the local bus to Olongapo and taking another bus from Olongapo back to Manila.
Thank you very much, #SOMO for yet another challenging but very fun hike. Even though the heat proved to be very challenging, we all pushed forward.
Thank you also to our two guides for keeping us safe and making sure we did not get lost.
Below is a video summary of our whole trip. Video courtesy of sir Marco:
10:35PM – ETD Victory Liner Cubao to Olongapo
1:55AM – ETA Olongapo
2:55AM – ETD from Olongapo to Subic via jeep
3:15AM – ETA Subic. Register at Police Station and submit letter of intent
3:35AM – ETA to second registration via tricycle
3:45AM – ETD from second registration to jump-off
4:10AM – ETA jump-off. Final preparations
4:50AM – Start trek
5:35AM – ETA Kawayanan (first and probably last water source)
9:40AM – ETA Campsite. Early lunch and rest
12:30PM – Resume trek to summit
12:40PM – ETA Mt. Balingkilat summit. Take photos
1:30PM – Start descent to Talisayen Cove
4:15PM – ETA river (possible water source). Rest and regroup
5:15PM – Resume trek
6:15PM – ETA Talisayen Cove
6:00AM – Wake up call. Prepare breakfast
11:00AM – Swim
12:00PM – Eat lunch
2:30PM – ETD Talisayen Cove to Pundaquit via boat
3:20PM – ETA Pundaquit. Fix up.
3:50PM – ETD Pundaquit to San Antonio via tricycle
Lunch, dinner and breakfast food (talk to your group about the arrangement)
Bag Rain Cover
Mess Kit (Plate, Spoon, Fork, Cup)
The Cawag Mountains are really challenging to hike not because of the trail but because of the heat that saps the energy of most hikers almost immediately. People will really need strength, determination, good companions……….and lots of cold water to scale these mountains.
Although what is good about this is the reward after a difficult trek – the view at the summit and the different coves upon finishing the hike.