MT. HAPUNANG BANOI: AN EAGLES SANCTUARY
Hiking has been one of the favourite activities of people who aim to distress from the city life. Even though it’s a very challenging activity, some people like me find it as something that heals the soul. Being up in the mountains makes me regain my inner peace, makes me find a whole new meaning to life and more importantly gives me the strength to keep on going. I know a lot of you will not understand why, but somehow hiking really helps me cope up with all the challenges in my life. Just being up there, seeing the beauty of nature from the summit and feeling the adrenaline of the climb, makes me more thankful for this wonderful life God has given me.
This is not my first hike, but I’m not a pro either. I just love doing it. Since I’m living in Rizal, my home is located near a few popular hiking destinations.
Now, let me share with you my latest adventure in this mountain called ‘ Hapunang Banoi ‘.
You might be wondering where does its name come from, well according to history this mountain used to be an eagle place for staying and eating. “HAPUNANG ‘= a Tagalog word means dining + ‘BANOI ‘= a Tagalog word for eagle. I actually spotted eagles flying freely in the summit, unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to take a photo because I was so amazed to see one that I just stared and appreciated it as it flew away from our location.
When it comes to difficulty level, it is 4/9 and still considered as a minor hike. Though out of the three sister mountains here in Montalban Rizal this one is probably the hardest when it comes to altitude, difficulty and length. It is 517 mass above sea level, and it will take you around 2-3 hours to reach the summit.
Location: Brgy. Wawa, Montalban Rizal Philippines
Why Choose Mt. Hapunang Banoi?
- View it offers: Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges, overview of the beauty of metro
- Side trips/ Activities: Wawa Dam, Wawa River, Karugo Falls, Boating, Cliff Diving, River Crossing Wall Climbing
- Probable: Sea of Clouds, Philippine Eagle
- Affordability: estimated 350 per head
- Proximity from the Metro: 2 hours
How to get there?
–Via private transporation:
- Waze can bring you until Barangay Wawa which is the drop-off location.
- There is an area for parking that is free of charge
- Leave early: If you’ll be coming from Metro Manila I advise for you to leave at 2 AM, so you can start your climb at 4 AM just in time to witness sunrise at the summit.
-Via Public Transportation:
From Cubao Farmers Market:
-Ride a jeepney /Fx bound to Eastwood. Fare: 50/each if FX/ UV Express ; 25/ each if jeepney. Travel time: 60 minutes.
-Ride a tricycle/jeep bound to the Barangay Hall of Wawa. Fare: 60/trip if tricycle special; 10/each if jeepney. Travel time: 10 minutes.
- I prefer to ride a tricycle to the barangay hall because if you will ride the jeepney, you need to wait for it be full which will most probably take forever! Hahaha
Sample Itinerary :
What to bring:
- At least 1 Liter of water
- Hand Gloves. Also available in the Barangay Hall for 40/each.
- Small towel
- Mosquito Repellant
- Trail food. Example: Jelly Ace, chocolate bars, bubble gum etc etc
- Extra clothes.
- Rain Coat
What to wear:
-Dry-fit shirt/rash guard
*Applicable for females: for your IG gaming, wear a nice sports bra inside. Trust me you’ll be needing it!
*I prefer wearing leggings because it will protect you from the sharp grasses and rock edges.
-Hiking shoes/ Rubber Shoes/ Hiking Sandals
*I prefer wearing Hiking Sandals because it’s very easy to clean after and also it’s very lightweight.
Since I am living in Cainta, Rizal I left the house at around 4 AM which is actually late already. I rode an Uber from my place to the terminal of jeepneys bound to Eastwood Montalban Rizal. From there, I rode a tricycle bound for the Barangay Hall of Wawa and proceeded to register and get my guide for the hike. Please do not try to haggle about the price, this is their way of living and it’s actually very affordable come to think of their services that will be rendered. You’ll not just be a having a guide but also a great photographer! Wag na po tayong kuripot!
Let the adventure begin!!!!!!!!!!!
We started hiking at around 5:30 AM, first we walked through a residential area where the trail is still concrete. Then we passed through a wooden hanging bridge separating the residential area from the trail proper. Now the photography gaming starts! From the bridge, you can have a very nice view of Mt. Binicayan and Mt. Pamintinan.
After around 30 mins of hiking, we decided to have our first resting stop and there we met my hiking buddy: ‘Baluga’. He is a very adorable hiking dog who approached me while I was sitting in the rock formations.
The ascend going to the junction took us an hour, where the trail composed mostly of steep rocky climbing. Yes, you heard it right! Too much arm work for a day! The stones have very sharp edges, that’s why it’s important to wear a hand glove.
Upon reaching the junction, you can either choose to climb Mt. Hapunang Banoi or Mt. Pamitinan. This is also the last and final stop before the start of our assault to the summit. There is a convenience store available to buy food and refreshments. Expect that prices are higher than the usual, one thing to try is their Fresh Buko Juice which is 30 pesos per piece. That’s actually affordable right!?
The trail after the junction is more intense when it comes to difficulty! It is now composed of thick bamboo forest, larger and sharper limestones formations and literally 90 degrees wall climbing!
Upon reaching the first peak, we finally accepted the reality that we wouldn’t witness the sea of clouds. Even though it rained the night before our climb, it’s really a matter of luck to experience it.
To reach the first peak, I climbed a 30 ft. wall without any harness attached to me. My guide told me that out of 10 people who will climb Mt. Hapunang Banoi, only 2 or 3 dares to climb this peak because of its difficulty. You can literally hear me chanting: ‘I can do this! I can do this! No, I can’t! I might die! But I can do this! My hands were shaking all the way up! Keep in mind that once you let go, you will be falling down a very sharp limestone formation and you definitely don’t want that to happen. Mahirap kayang ma-fall tapos walang sasalo haha atwsu!
But the nerve wracking climb to the top was definitely worth it! Just look at this beauty!
This is where all the famous heart-stopping (buwis-buhay) photos on the internet is usually taken.
How is it possible?
It takes a lot of courage to sit in this hanging stone cliff and also a lot of skills for the photographer to make it look like what it should be. Take note that in order to take good shots here, your photographer needs to climb another rock formation adjacent to this cliff. therefore the struggle is not only for you but also for your photographer! Laban lang ng laban! Just be extra careful, remember to hold as firm as you can! Hold on to your dear life!
In order to reach the summit, one must be ready to scramble slowly on the way up. The stones here are very far from each other and very slippery. You need to keep your hands and feet supported all the time. The summit can only accommodate 2-3 persons in maximum because of its small area. But for me, it’s definitely better to have it alone for yourself. There you can finally shout to the world, ‘THANK YOU, LORD! I REACHED THE SUMMIT!!!!!!’
During weekends a lot of people come here, therefore each is only given 2-3 minutes to stay on the summit but because I climbed on a weekday there was no time pressure given.
I took this opportunity to appreciate the beautiful view and to pray about all my worries in life. Ever since I started hiking I always have this belief that once I whisper all my worries in the summit, all of it will be gone. I went down the summit with a heart full of positivity, I am now ready to deal with this crazy world again.
Since the sun is almost at its peak, we decided to start descending at around 9:30 AM.
From the Junction, we chose to traverse to reach the ‘Karugo Falls’ which is 40 minutes away from our current location. The hike going there was actually easy, composing mostly of grassland and bamboo forest. For non-hikers, Karugo Falls is also available through another route which is just 30 minutes ride from the Barangay Hall.
During summer time, there are a lot of people who visit here for different occasions. Cottages are also available for rent, some are 100/ each and the larger ones are 150/each. There is also an area where you can grill your food, you just need to bring your own charcoal.
15 minutes away from the Karugo Falls, this campsite is open for everyone who is planning to stay overnight. A fee of 150 pesos per tent is charged when you pinch your own tent, and 50 Pesos for each hammock.
There is also restroom available for 5 pesos each toilet usage and 15 pesos per shower.
The area is very surprisingly well maintained by the locals.
There is no fee for or visiting this place!!!!
The water here is very clear and clean too! To reach the other side, we rode a small boat paddled by this young boy named Bernie. We paid 10 pesos each for the ride and mind you it is not easy because we were heavy and the current is mildly strong. I asked him where he would be using the money he gets from working as bangkero (boat man) and he told me that he needs that money for school. I was moved by this, so decided to give him more. These kinds of stories make my adventure more meaningful. I was inspired by this child.
Also known as ‘Montalban dam’ this gravity dam was built in the year 1909 during the American Colonial era to provide water to the metro. It is a favourite cool down place for all the hikers in the area since it charges to fee. If you will get a floating cottage then you just need to pay 150 for the whole day rental of the cottage. During summer time, this is a sure hit for family outings and barkada reunions because of its proximity from the metro and its affordability.
It’s my 4th time to visit this place but I never get tired of appreciating its beauty. I always say that it gives me the ‘Palawan vibes’ every time! Do you agree? Just look at those rock formations on the side.
The trail was really difficult, I even got myself plenty of bruises after but it was definitely worth it!
I was in love not only with the view from the summit but to the experience itself. I may not be lucky enough to witness the sea of clouds but I am still thankful that we succeeded in conquering this mountain. I loved how the sunlight shined through the trees and how the limestone sparkled when the sunlight reaches them, I love the sky-high adrenaline I got from climbing the peaks and summit; and lastly, I love how I regained my inner peace by being one with nature.
Stay tuned for my next #OffDutyHikingDiaries
Hope it inspired you to make your own adventure!
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Let’s stay connected loves!
Joan Tapiz Maniago
THE NURSE OFF DUTY