Beaches,  Mountains,  Travel and Adventures

From Summit to Sea: Mt. Balingkilat to Talisayen Cove

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

Difficulty: 5/9

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:

Transportation Details

VEHICLE FROM TO FARE TOTAL PER PERSON (11 pax) ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME
Bus Cubao Olongapo Php 212 Php 212 4 hrs
Jeep Olongapo Subic Php 20 Php 20 20min
Tricycle Subic Jump-off Php 125 Php 125
TOTAL Php 357 4hrs 20min

Going Home:

VEHICLE FROM TO FARE TOTAL PER PERSON (13 pax*) ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME
Boat Talisayen Cove Pundaquit Php3,250 Php 250* 1 hour
Tricycle Pundaquit San Antonio Php 30 Php 30* 30min
Bus San Antonio Olongapo Php 45 Php 45* 1hr 30min
Bus Olongapo Manila P 212 Php 212* 4 hours
TOTAL Php 537 7 hours

Other Expenses

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT TOTAL PER PERSON (11pax | 13pax*)
Guide Fee (1:5, overnight = Php2,000) Php 4,000 Php 364
Registration Fee Php 60 Php 60
Talisayen Resort Entrance with Cottage Php2,600* Php 200*
Food and other supplies Php 1,319* Php 102*
TOTAL Php 726

*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.

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#SOMO group

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.

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Fresh faces at the police station

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.

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Good morning!

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.

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View just a little past 6:00AM

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.

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Anything for additional shade please. Lol.

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.

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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.

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Some of the group’s summit photos

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.

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That’s one steep and long descent

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.

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Nope, still no flat surfaces, still no shade and nope, still no established trail. Hahaha

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.

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The water seems harmless, right? Haha

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.

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Sunset by the beach

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.

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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.

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The group swimming at Talisayen Cove
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Yours truly enjoying some vitamin sea

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

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Bye Talisayen Cove!

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.

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#SOMO (From T-B, L-R: John the photographer, Jeff the birthday boy, Nathan the mighty organizer, Marco the video editor, Rayford the fins porter, Jervine the drone master, Angelique the Zumba hater (hahaha), Camae, Fran the beach beauty, Shine the mountain fairy, Jaze the omelet master, Irene the new friend, Gem the guide’s favorite)

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:


Itinerary

Day 0

10:35PM – ETD Victory Liner Cubao to Olongapo

Day 1

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

Day 2

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

4:10PM – Take bus from San Antonio to Olongapo

5:35PM – ETA Olongapo. Buy tickets to Manila

5:45PM – ETD from Olongapo to Manila via bus

9:30PM – ETA Cubao


Things to bring:

Clothes

  • Cap
  • Change of clothes
  • Raincoat/Poncho
  • Slippers

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Tissue, wet wipes
  • Deodorant

Essentials

  • Alcohol
  • Sun block
  • Umbrella
  • Plastic bags (for trash, dirty clothes, gadgets and to be used as mats)
  • Medicine (Paracetamol, Loperamide, Ibuprofen, Loratidine, Phenylpropanolamine HCl/decongestants, etc.)
  • Powerbank
  • Trail Food (biscuits, chips, candies, chocolates, etc)
  • Water (at least 3L)
  • Lunch, dinner and breakfast food (talk to your group about the arrangement)
  • Money
  • Bag Rain Cover
  • Flashlight

Miscellaneous

  • Trekking Pole
  • Cookset
  • Stove
  • Butane
  • Tent
  • Camera
  • 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.

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Talisayen Cove. Beautiful, right?

Thanks for reading!

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