Mt. Tabayoc and its most preserved virgin forest

Mt. Tabayoc
One of the most prominent mountains in Luzon is Mt. Tabayoc because it is the second highest mountain in Luzon (2842 MASL) and is one of the most preserved virgin forest in the Philippines, with a rich bio-diversity of flora and fauna. Your hiking experience will definitely be rewarded with a breathtaking beauty of sea of clouds, artistic view of the surrounding terraces, a cool weather, a relaxing green ambiance, and a life changing tranquility by the lake. Also, there are a lot of mouth watering at lost cost and fresh harvest vegetables in the area.

Benguet Tourist Spots
Our travel from Mt. Timbac to Tabayoc was a long journey - it's within four hours. So, after the relaxed hike on Timbac, next was sleeping while traveling. No lunch yet - pero busog naman ang mga mata namin sa napaka-gandang tanawin. Subalit, kahit anung hanap ko ng appreciation yung ganda, hindi parin maipasok sa isipan ko, ramdam ko parin ang gutom ko. Sabi ko nga: "Kahit gaano ka busog ang mata mo, di parin ito matatanggal ang pag-kalam ng sikmura mo, tama diba?" Infairness, masarap ang fresh carrots huh, para tuloy akong rabbit. It was a long, curve-y, uphill road. And at around 1600, we finally reached Ballay Ranger Station.

Lake Tabeo
Ballay Ranger Station is at Tabayo, Ballay, Kabayan, Benguet. It was cold - I noticed that when I opened the door and went out of the van. Low temperature at this area is just normal because of its elevation and it is still part of Mt. Pulag National Park. Since the sun is almost setting, upon arrival, we set up our camp and changed to cold weather outfits then prepared our dinner.

While the sun was waving with goodbye, the bluish sky started changing its color into gold.  The sky sets a perfect backdrop as it showcases a golden reflection on Lake Tabeo. It was already dark when we finished the dinner preparation. Next part - a sumptuous dinner, with rice and a hot creamy sinigang. After dinner, rested while thinking of "I am not going to summit!"

Second Day: Te Bing woke me up by shouting: "ang ganda ng mga stars, dali! Bumangon kana!" I hurriedly grabbed my DSLR and opened the tent door. Anndddd...  okay.... the stars were fine on the skies but it wasn't astounding because of the clouds blocking them. Prepared our cold and moisture proof outfit and served a hot coffee and bread, as our super light breakfast.  Around 0200, we started ascending to summit.

Mt. Timbak and Mt. Tabayoc
The stairs to the view deck.
As expected, the challenging part in hiking Mt. Tabayoc is the steep and assault trails to summit. Plus the very cold wind mixed with moisture - ay talaga namang may tutulong sipon sa ilong  mo ng hindi mo namamalayan. Infairness, the ambiance in the morning was relaxing and I was hearing birds singing, the sssshhhhh sound created when the wind blows. The trails have no access to moonlight, so a flashlight is required! Finally reached the summit at around 0530.

The view of Mt. Pulag

Mt. Tabayoc Summit
The summit has no open space; the management created an improvised view deck situated on top of the trees. Since it's improvised, it has limited weight limit (can only accommodate maximum of 3-4, depending on your weight). While I was waiting for my turn to climb up to the view deck, the sunlight started penetrating the trail. When I totally saw the surroundings, was stunned by its healthy forest; the mosses, ferns and orchids were happily hanging on the branches. It's my turn; upon standing on the wooden view deck, I was mesmerized by what I saw. There's a 360 degrees view, with Mt. Pulag on the background and its famous "sea of clouds."

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Mt. Tabayoc difficulty
We just stayed on the view deck for about 20 minutes because another group just arrived. Descending on a steep downhill trail was a bit challenging but it is one of the most preserved virgin forest in the Philippines, so there's a rich bio-diversity of plants such as the colorful  flowers by the trail and orchids hanging on the trees - really pleasing in the eyes. The soprano voices of the birds singing added a more relaxing ambiance. Syempre hindi ako papatalo sa mga birds, sinasabayan ko sila gamit ang mala Mariah Carrey ko na whistle.

Mt. Tabayoc weather

most preserved virgin forest

Mt. Tabayoc DIY

Mt. Tabayoc Pinoy Mountaineer
Another view deck, with Lake Tabeo
The trails of Mt. Tabayoc are covered with trees, so the only access to view the surrounding villages and the beautiful terraces are the summit and the view deck (photo above). Posing at this spot wasn't easy because the only way to capture this photo is to walk on a horizontal tree trunk hanging on a cliff; this knee shaking photo shoot was worth it! There's a clear view of Mt. Pulag, hiding on the white cotton-y clouds and the terraces is just so artistic - I can personally compare this shot to the early civilization of Machu Picchu in Peru, Google it!

highest mountain in the Philippines

Mt. Tabayoc campsite

DJI Spark raw video and photo sample
A drone shot, with the Lake Tabeo on the background.
Based on my camera timestamp, descent is within two hours - this includes unli picture picture on the trail. The only proof that you're by the lake is the farmlands - trail doesn't have access to view the villages. Upon arrival by the Lake Tabeo, the sun just showed his hot shine that stopped the cold ambiance. At the camp, had our breakfast part 2 and tidy up. Then, break camp. Hiking Mt. Tabayoc is highly recommended to those people who are searching for a virgin and mossy forest.

Good Taste restaurant in Baguio
Group photo at Good Taste Restaurant
Had a headache during our climb because of lack of sleep but I enjoyed. Next part would be the long winding travel to Baguio City for an eat out. Travel Period: 3 hours and 30 minutes. In Baguio, we were surprised by the heavy traffic due to heavy rains. It's hard to find an available parking so we decided to have a break at Good Taste Restaurant.

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HOW TO GET HERE: I can't provide a specific details via commute since we chartered a van for our transportation. PM on my facebook page: @SirangLente and I'm happy to answer all your queries.

EXPENSES: Guide Fee: 4000 pesos (group of 11), Entrance Fee: 175, Camp Fee: 50, Heritage Fee: 150, Transpo Manila-Timbak-Tabayoc-Manila: 15,000 (group of 11).

REMINDERS: Registration is a must! Guides are required (1:7 ratio). The temperature is really low (like Mt. Pulag), weather proof jackets or fleece is required (ramdam ko talaga yung panlalamig). Water supply is available, however, there are times that they give priority to watering their farms. Toilet and bath are available. Sari-sari stores are available and charging at the local houses is allowed (of course with a golden price).

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