Nature at its Best: Series 10 - Mt Pulag's Sea of Clouds
By Rey mos
1 May 2013
KNOWN AS THE SECOND HIGHEST MOUNTAIN in the Philippines, Mt Pulag is a natural park in the northern tip of the country (Benguet, Mountain Province) to be explored during summer. Best known for its sea of clouds as the sun rises in the horizon, Mt Pulag is a popular tourist attraction not only for mountain climbers/trekkers but also for people who want to explore the beauty of its mountain peaks and nearby villages that grow a variety of vegetables and fruits.
It is not really a climbing experience, but rather a trek or walk since I joined a group that took the easy trail/route (Kabayan) to reach the summit. Not really easy, but a convenient and safe route for those who decided to climb or hike this mystical Mt Pulag for the first time. There are other trails that are challenging (with more beautiful landscapes to see) for climbers but it will take 2-3 days to arrive at the campsite.
For the local people, the mountain is a dwelling place of their ancestors - a sacred land where the spirits of their loved ones stay to guard the forest from destruction. This is the reason why the government requires all visitors to attend an orientation program (briefing) prior to ascent to provide basic information on how to respect the place. To be "silent" or quiet is always the top thing to do during the climb as the local folks believe that heavy rainfall comes when people are noisy and chaotic.
The culminating part of the climb is to reach the summit of Mt Pulag at the very early hours of the morning ( at least before 6am). Excluding the 6 hours bus trip from Manila to Baguio, then another 4 hours of jeep ride to reach the Ranger Station (where the local guides and porters await climbers for a minimal fee), 3.5 hours trek to reach the main campsite, it takes 1.5 hours to reach the highest peak of the mountain - the summit. Before ascending the summit, the overnight stay at the foot of the summit is another memorable experience - temperature reaching as low as 5 degrees Centigrade, with a foggy surrounding and misty ground; indeed a coldest sleepless night with other 8 human beings under one tent. A quick visit to the traditional toilet (bathroom) during the night was like a kilometer-walk in the mossy forest of the Amazon. Certainly, it is more fun trekking the mountain ranges of the Philippines.
The summit has a maximum capacity for a number of visitors (up to 150 people), so it is desirable to have a reservation prior to the climb. It is frustrating not to reach the summit, but there are lower peaks of the mountain to view the sea of clouds and the rising of the sun from the horizon. But watching the waves of clouds and the sun at the summit is something not to be missed!
Mt Pulag is one of the natural parks in the Philippines under the National Integrated Protected Areas Programme (NIPAP) - a special project funded by European Union.