This is a series. Check out the other parts below:

Cawag Pentalogy: The Ultimate Open Trail Challenge (Part I)
Cawag Pentalogy: The Ultimate Open Trail Challenge (Part II)

Take a break. Take a deep breath.

Mt. Bira-bira and Mt. Naulaw: Brief Respite

While we were climbing down to Mt. Bira-bira, we snapped pictures on the numerous rock structures along the trail. Idyllic spots offering great views of the mountains and the sea are aplenty on the trail. But the sun has begun making its presence felt as the temperatures began to rise. We immediately felt its impact as we felt the exhaustion even though we covered a short distance. The heat is absorbing every ounce of strength that we have. The sun and the heat is bound to be our second biggest challenge for the day.

At around 10:50 AM, we finally reached Mt. Bira-bira. Two out of five! Compared to Mt. Balingkilat, it is smaller. The summit has a limited space. However, it is an ideal spot to snap pictures of the picturesque surrounding. One of Zambales’ prominent coves, Nagsasa Cove can be seen from a distance. As one looks further away, one can also see the towering peaks of Mt. Dayungan and Mt. Cinco Picos. After scrambling through the boulders of Mt. Balingkilat, Mt. Bira-bira is a welcome sight.

The climb down Mt. Balingkilat is riddled with boulders.
The trail that we had to climb down. It seems straightforward and easy but it is challenging.
The thunder gods have decided to settle down early as clouds began covering Mt. Balingkilat’s summit.

After a brief rest, we went full throttle again towards the next mountain on our list, Mt. Naulaw. The trail transformed from rocky to an open grassy trail. However, the incline is more gradual but the trail goes up and down. The assaults were rarely steep but nonetheless challenging because of the heat and the damp trail.

Every couple of minutes or so, we had to stop and rest for a while. It didn’t help that Mahdi and I were nursing injuries on our right knees after our assault to Mt. Balingkilat. To reduce the strain on our right knees, we did our best not to add weight on it. Thankfully, one of our companions had a good enough mind to bring ointment to relieve pain. The relief was temporary but it will suffice for today’s purposes.

Meet me where the mountains meet the sea.
Come and let us get suck in the whirlwind of adventure.

After two hours of wading through the sea of wet and wild grasslands, we finally reached Mt. Naulaw. The summit is marked by a communications tower. Mahdi and I naturally didn’t let the moment pass without having our pictures taken. Unfortunately, the grass is thick and there is no established trail around the summit so we had to make our way to the side to have a better view of the coast.

The thick grassland is one of the overwhelming characteristics of the trail. Asked why the trail is barely established, the barangay chairman, who also happens to be our guide, said that they wanted to maintain the natural ambiance of the mountains. They don’t want to cut any of the tall grasses, to the detriment of hikers who are being slapped by the tall grass leaves whenever the wind blows. But I guess this is the real meaning of leaving no trace behind.

At the summit of Mt. Bira-bira, with Nagsasa Cove on the background.
At the summit of Mt. Naulaw, with the towering Mt. Dayungan on the background.

Mt. Dayungan: Nearly There

The challenge got more difficult with every step but there is no more turning back. We have committed ourselves already and it is amazing to think that we are halfway through. But the climb became even more challenging because I am doing this challenge with just one good knee. In all the mountain I’ve climbed, this is the first time that I got injured during the climb. I guess there is always a place and time for that proverbial first time. I am into this already so let us keep moving forward. As they say in Korea, “Fighting!”

Going back to our climb, we finally reached the base of Mt. Dayungan where we took another breather while waiting for the rest of our group. While resting, I tried to scope the challenge that lay before us to prepare for it mentally. But this is just what I have feared, another endless set of assaults. Instead of being discouraged, I tried to fill my mind with enthusiasm – the end is within grasp. After the brief rest, we made our way to the creek where the group agreed to take our second meal of the day.

Grassy trails, wild trails, wet trails.
The cold water streaming down the mountain is a reprieve from the sweltering heat.

At around 2 PM, we reached the creek on the way to Mt. Dayungan’s summit. We all spread out our things and settled down so that we can have our lunch. After having their lunch, some of us tried to find flat surfaces to lie down for a quick nap before going all out again. While some napped, some sipped on the cold waters of the stream to remedy the heat that has been draining us of every bit of energy that we had in store.

At around 3 PM, we set out again for the fourth leg of our journey. As I have feared, there is yet another set of assaults on the way to Mt. Dayungan’s summit. But what worried me more is the drastic shift of the weather. From sunny, it suddenly turned to gloomy and cloudy. The summit has been shrouded by dark ominous clouds. It wasn’t the clearing at the summit that I was worried about, rather, it was the possibility of a rainy climb again. What I feared nearly came into fruition as small drops of rain began to fall.

Chasing after the last bit of clearing for a chance to snap a picture at Mt. Dayungan’s summit.

But again, God listened to my tiny gasps of prayer – the rain stopped as quickly as it began. Sigh of relief. However, Mt. Dayungan’s summit still seems faraway, in spite of our guide’s words of encouragement that we are nearly there. As we drew closer to the summit, there is something that I had to be more worried about. My left knee began to crumble because I let it absorb too much of my weight during the lengthy and exasperating climb. I began to feel the pangs of cramps and ultimately had to stop to let it rest. Thankfully, one of the organizers had an ointment which relieved my cramping knee in a jiffy.

After numerous stops along the way, we finally made it to the summit of Mt. Dayungan at around 4:45 PM. As I have feared, the view was obscured by the think clouds but it was fine nonetheless because we made it all the way to the summit in spite of the challenges we had to overcome. I felt even more accomplished because I was able to do it on the back of two virtually malfunctioning knees. It seems that Mahdi and I haven’t lost our magic because the view began showing a glimpse of itself. We quickly suited up for the brief photo-op before the clouds can cover the view again.

With a revived spirit, we gathered our wits and proceeded with the final stretch of our climb. In under an hour, we reached the other side of Mt. Dayungan. The climb down is similar to the trail going down Mt. Balingkilat – rocky and narrow. The view is equally breathtaking as the fourth cove, Silanguin Cove, comes into full view. Mt. Cinco Picos as well can be seen. Unlike the four previous mountains, Mt. Cinco Picos, is covered by a dense vegetation.

The challenge is always at the start. Hold on and what lies in the end is more than rewarding

Do tune in for the conclusion of our Cawag Pentalogy hike.