Nature at it’s finest just outside Manila
Manila is considered the gateway to the Philippines, especially if you’re coming from European countries or the United States. For those who are in transit in this city, visiting the old Spanish village called Intramuros, watching the sunset over Manila bay, and tasting delicacies like the Filipino-Chinese noodles, fresh vegetable spring rolls, and fried pork buns at Chinatown are the main options. You can do all of these in a day but if you have another day or two to spare, why not see what the rural parts of the Philippines has to offer? And while doing so, treat your eyes around the stunning Sierra Madre mountain range, various bird species, small streams and rock formations inside several caves while trekking.
From Manila, it only takes a 2-hour drive or a 2-hour jeepney ride to get to the jump-off point for Mt. Daraitan. You can get to the Edsa Central Shopping Mall at the city of Mandaluyong as early as 4 a.m. The jeepney ride will cost you 150 pesos or about 3 dollars, just ask for any jeepney bound for the town of Tanay in the province of Rizal. If you’re a big group, you can ask the jeepney driver to take you straight to the village of Sampaloc where you will start the trek. Upon arrival at the jump-off point, you have to to register with the village officials and secure a hiking guide which costs about 500 pesos or roughly 8 dollars for for at most 5 persons. There are small stores where you can buy drinks and snacks before you ascend. At about 738 meters above sea level with a 4/10 level of difficulty, the trek to the peak should take you 3 to 4 hours on the average depending on your fitness level. It took us an hour and half to the peak and another hour descending, but the guide said it took a not so fit lady 7 hours to get to the peak at one point. It would be advisable then to do some running or stretching weeks before your hike.
The trail is shaded for about 80% of the trek, and while the trail does not have any concrete steps, there’s plenty of roots and stems where you can anchor yourself. Be sure to bring lots of liquids and wear good hiking shoes with a good grip since some parts of the trail near the streams can be slippery. There were two stops where you can buy some bottled water for 50 pesos but ask them if they have fresh coconut juice, it costs the same but of course more refreshing.
Escape the urban hectics in Manila
The view at the peak is beyond stunning. There’s the never ending Sierra Madre mountain range, the spiraling Tinipak river below, limestone formations, and some stunted flowering trees locals call “Kalachuchi”. You can even move around the peak (it’s about 50 square meters) and just soak in the scenery. You will not believe that it only took you a 2-hour ride just to get to that place. Some parts of the peak are shaded and if you’re feeling fancy, bring a blanket together with your lunch and have a picnic while basking on the lush greenery. If you’re into birding, bring your binoculars as well because this is the place for you. I saw some kingfishers and heard some bird calls during the trek.
Going down should be easier, and if you finish early, you should visit the nearby Tinipak river. Upon reaching the village, be sure to try some local delicacies from the province of Rizal like milk and “ube” (sweet purple yam), and “camote” (cassava) fritters. Or, if your still looking for that perfect gift for him, take a look at these gifts for men of thatsweetgift.com.No need to worry if you don’t have a ride back since there are jeepneys from the village going back to town center until 5 p.m. where you can score another jeepney ride back to Manila.
More than getting away from the city or seeing the rural landscape, the thought of climbing a mountain in a span of just a day is such an accomplishment. And if you’re wise and informed enough, that one-day transit in Manila or that free weekend can give you that and some more.