Friendship Trips

Following our very pleasant visit at the blooming Northern Blossom Farm, my friends and I proceeded to the second leg of our one-day Benguet province tour. Climbing Mt. Timbak was supposed to be the first part of our trip but when Voltaire came across majestic sunrise pictures at Northern Blossom Farm, the order was rearranged.

Soaring at a whopping elevation of 2,717 MASL, Mt. Timbak, or also called Mt. Singakalsa, is the ninth highest mountain in the country. Together with its neighboring mountains, Mt. Pulag, and Mt. Tabayoc, they form a trio climbers familiarly refer to as the Luzon 3-2-1, short for Luzon’s three highest mountains. But unlike the other ten mountains listed as the country’s Top 10 highest mountains, Mt. Timbak’s summit is accessible through a road.

We drove for about an hour to Mt. Timbak from Sayangan, Atok, even passing by the Philippine Pali’s Highest Point (it was recently dethroned by a part of the Philippine highway system in Tinoc, Ifugao). From Halsema Highway, there is an uphill road that leads to the upper portions of Mt. Timbak. Had our friend not volunteered to drive a car, we would be climbing from the highway up to the summit. We would have still managed, otherwise, except that it is an extra 45 to 60-minute climb.

Let the adventure begin!
Cabbages in bloom!
And the wild azaleas too!

We parked our car at the Timbak Elementary School before proceeding to climb the rest of the trail, if you can refer to the farm road as a trail. It wasn’t much of a challenge finding our way through the road-cum-trail. There are some houses along the way which were our primary guides in looking for the trail. Our familiarity with Ilocano eliminates any possible communication barriers as well.

While climbing, we’ve noticed the locals tidying up their harvest. It was radish harvest season, hence, the vehicles filled with radish plying up and down the farmland-turned mountain. This reminded me of the sad reality of Mt. Timbak. Unlike other mountains which are covered by thick verdure, Mt. Timbak suffered greatly from the kaingin system. Nearly every arable land in the mountain was converted into terraced farmlands. But who am I to blame them when agriculture is the only thing that sustains them? Both realizations crush me, placing me in disquieting impasse; there really is no such thing as black and white.

Enough with the idiosyncratic tendencies of my playful mind. I have to focus on the climb, or not really because it wasn’t as physically taxing as my previous climbs. From the farm road, there is a pathway that branches towards the summit. we turned left into this pathway. Midway to the summit, we took a brief respite in a local sari-sari store. The sun high up was becoming a challenge. Our elevation, as well, brought us closer to the punishing rays of the sun.

Trying her hand at gathering carrots.
Just another day of labor for the locals.
If Ifugao prides itself with its RICE terrace, Benguet has its own VEGETABLE terraces.
We are never one to take a break from taking pictures.

Whilst resting, we took the time to converse with the locals. There is a different kind of pleasure in communicating with the locals and learning about their stories. During our casual conversations, we learned that some of them were high school students. They go home on weekends and go back to La Trinidad (roughly three hours away) to study during weekdays. Although there are nearby schools, they prefer the pandemonium of the capital town.

Energized, we resumed our trek. There were other climbers who went before us, but it wasn’t as crowded as any of the other mountains I have climbed. It is an easy climb as well, which is kind of surprising that not that many climbers flock to it. This may be attributed to its “secluded” status, being overshadowed by the more challenging and picturesque trails of Mts. Pulag and Tabayoc. Whatever the reason maybe, I am glad that there weren’t many climbers. We can enjoy our climb with tranquility, something that has become a luxury in some popular hiking destinations.

It didn’t take long for us to reach the summit; the trail is quite established and apart from the sun, there were no other factors that preclude us from accomplishing our mission. The trail to the summit also doubles up as Stations of the Cross, especially during Lenten Season. The summit was propped up with three crosses and some other religious statues. The view at the summit, to say the least is breathtaking. It affords one a 360-degree view of the Cordilleran mountains.

The clear path towards the top.
Finally, the summit!
It was a refreshing (and easy) climb!
The state of Mt. Timbak.

The Philippine Pali and Mt. Pulag are just amongst the prominent structures which can be viewed from the summit. We also saw the thick smokes rising from the horizon; this was the start of over a struggle against forest fires which started a couple of days before our adventure. These forest fires were slowly choking the Cordilleran mountains and would last for nearly over two months. The summit, just like the rest of the mountain, is surrounded by farmlands, sadly.

The view was too breathtaking for us not to take many pictures. For my friends and I, this one-day Benguet retreat is a break from the tediousness of our quotidian realities. It was a break from our usual burdens which make it all the more special. Not only were we able to climb the ninth highest mountain in the country but we were also able to spend some quality time together.

And thus concludes our one-day Atok-Kabayan escapade. Here’s to more trip with you guys!

Friends, no matter what, let us blossom  wherever we may end up.
Indeed, the power of four.
Okay, five, or six. Or whatever the count may be. Let us be friends for life.

Travel Information: How to Get There

  1. Ride a Victory Liner Bus, Genesis Bus or Joy Bus bound for Baguio. Bus fare is around PHP 475.00 and trips are available 24-hours. Travel time is around 4 (deluxe buses) to 6 (ordinary air-conditioned buses) hours.
  2. In Baguio, go to either Dangwa Bus Terminal or Slaughterhouse (Rising Sun) and take any Bontoc or Sagada bound buses. Ask the driver to drop you off at Sayangan, Atok. The earliest trip is usually around 5 AM. Bus fare is around PHP 75 to PHP 85 while travel time is around one and a half hour to two hours.
  3. Alight at KM 55, or just ask the conductor to drop you off at Mt. Timbak. Just follow the village road going up; ask the locals for further directions.

Other Practicalities

  • Climbing permits and climbing guides are not required. However, please remember to register at the tourism office.
  • There is cellphone signal all throughout the trail.
  • For food and other provisions, there is a village sari-sari store near the summit. They also sell freshly gathered vegetables.
  • Another point of interest in the area is Timbak Cave, home of the Kabayan Fire Mummies. However, as of posting, they are still off-limits to the general public. The Benguet Mummies are currently part of the tentative nomination list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • To reiterate, leave no trace.
Igorota beauty showcasing the beauty of the Cordilleras.
In the end, love will always conquer all.