Monday, April 11, 2016

Mt. Tangisan - Hike after the forest fire

There are two kinds of people. Those who climb mountains and those who sit in the shadow of the mountains and critique the climbers.” 
                                                                                                                            ― Richard Paul Evans

As I only had barely two days left to use my Birthday Leave (we are only allowed to use it during our birth month), it was my first time in a long while to again climb solo, and on a weekday at that.

At first, I could barely decide where to go until a brilliant idea pique my interest and which eventually made me decide to visit some friends in my province. As such, I found myself driving towards the NLEX while eagerly anticipating the climb up Mt. Tangisan.

Mt. Tangisan

Mt. Tangisan as seen from Monasterio de Tarlac

For starters, Mt. Tangisan is one of the mountains located in Western Tarlac (particularly in the town of San Jose), thus the popular term "San Jose Circuit". As I have already done the Circuit Climb twice, I know how humid the climb up the mountains of San Jose can be. Yes, while the mountains in San Jose are not really that tall, the climbing conditions (especially the heat/humidity) can take its toll on a climber / hiker.

Mt. Kawayan and Mt. Bungkol Baka

Rough Road going to Sitio San Pedro

Approaching the Dam
While there are other circumstances that happened before my actual not-so solo hike (because a local guide is mandatory), I will jump over to the time that I started the climb.

It was already 1415H when we left the registration area. While it was really cloudy on that day, the surroundings were still typically blazing hot. The river where the members of the community wash clothes and take a bath is now dried up. Also, the rice fields (mini terraces) are now cracked. (Admittedly, I was actually praying for rain to fall that day.) We then arrived at the Pangasaan Lake and Dam where some children are fishing. All these familiar scenes in the area really made me feel like home.
The bridge at the dam


Pangasaan Lake


A few minutes from Pangasaan Dam, we finally reached the fork leading to Mt. Tangisan. We turned left and had to duck the barbed wire fence (allegedly it was private property according to Kagawad). A few meters from there, the actual ascent started. The climb until the first ridge / view point is a good prelude to the continuous climb that ensued.

Here, the damage that resulted from the recent forest fire was already visible. Most of the smaller trees and shrubs have been scorched to the ground. The good news is that most of the bigger trees were more fortunate as new leaves are starting to sprout in their branches. Nevertheless, I just so feel that what we have lost in the conflagration is really priceless.

Assault all the way

Tree under fire

Rock face
It was such in a sorry state...:(

From the ridge, the hike up to the Summit is a continuous ascent. We had to duck a barbed wire fence again in the middle of the hike. Also, there were vestiges of streams that have all dried up because of the summer season.

The trail went on and after a steep climb, we finally reached the camp site. The camp site has two parts, the western side and the eastern side. Both camp sites could accommodate up to 10 tents. In the middle are  boulders stacked on one another. These boulders form what is considered to be the Summit.

approaching the summit / camp site

the remnants of the wild fire

The camp site is scorched to the ground

Pseudo-Summit and Mt. Arayat
A panoramic view of the area, reaching as far as Pangasinan, welcomed us. Mt. Tapulao and the rest of the Zambales Mountain Range seems very near. The sentinel of the Central Plains, that is Mt. Arayat can be seen on the horizon. Of course, the beauty and the allure of the Pangasaan Lake, the Meriones River and the rice fields add a different hue to the view at the top. The Monasterio de Tarlac is also visible. Kagawad was even pointing to me the area where the Balog-Balog Dam will be constructed.

River Valley
Brgy. Iba
Weekday Warrior

Scorched Boulders
Sitio Sam Pedro
Summit / Pseudo Summit

Mt. Kawayan and Mt. Bungkol Baka
Zambales Mt. Range
Meriones River and Mt. Ngile
Pangasaan Lake

Nonetheless, I just wish to point out that the aforesaid summit in the camp site area is not really the summit of the Mt. Tangisan. The actual summit is the peak on the southern side of this "pseudo-summit". According to Kagawad, similar to Mt. Bungkol Baka, they decided to consider the "pseudo-summit" as the apex for climbs in Mt. Tangisan since the actual summit has a very limited space. While I do not personally agree to such proposition, of course, we have to respect the decision of the locals.

The Actual Summit
At 1610H, we started to go down the mountain and traced our way down the similar trail that we just climbed. After a non-stop descent, we reached the registration area a shade before an hour has passed.

In the continuing effort to spread the impact on the more famous mountains, Mt. Tangisan is one mountain that weekend warriors and casual hikers may consider. Of course there will always be the dreaded San Jose Circuit climb should they wish to challenge their limits. Most of all, there are other activities in the area that will make the long trip to Sitio San Pedro worthwhile.
Hills somewhere in Mangatarem / Aguilar in Pangasinan

Mt. Arayat

Traipsing Chronicles 034
Mt. Tangisan
Brgy. Iba, San Jose, Tarlac
Jump off point: Sitio San Pedro, Brgy. Iba, San Jose, Tarlac

Minor Climb: 2/10
Highlights: Diverse Flora and Fauna; views of the San Jose Circuit (Mt. Kawayan/Caoayan, Mt. Bungkol Baka, Mt. Matalaubaba, Mt. Ngile, Mt. Fuangi, Mt. Pigar-Pigar), Mt. Arayat, the Zambales Mountain Range, Pangasaan Lake/Dam, Meriones River, San Pedro River Valley and the Monasterio de Tarlac.

Actual Itinerary (Starting from the time I arrived at the Municipal Hall to secure the mandatory permit)
1210H  -  Secure permit at the Municipal Tourism Office / Courtesy call at the San Jose Police Station
1245H  -  Left the Municipal Hall for Sitio San Pedro
1300H  -  Arrival in Sitio San Pedro / Registration Area / Waited for my guide
1415H  -  Started Hiking
1435H  -  Arrival at Pangasaan Dam / Bridge
1440H  -  Arrival at the fork (straight leads to Bungkol Baka / right leads to Tangisan)
1450H  -  Arrival at 1st Ridge / Rest stop
1515H   Arrival at the rock face / Rest stop before the final assault
1535H  -  Arrival at the Camp Area / Summit / Photo Ops
1610H  -  Start Descent
1645H  -  Reached Pangasaan Dam / Bridge
1705H  -  Back at the Registration Area
1730H  -  Wash up
1800H  -  Departure for Manila / via San Jose - Capas Road
2045H  -  Back in Quezon City

Climb Permit.

It was 1100H when I arrived in quaint Sitio San Pedro (located just before the Monasterio de Tarlac). Kapitan Omeng, the Tribal Chieftain of the Abeling Tribe welcomed me to his simple abode, which also served as the Registration Area for the time being since the actual registration area opposite his home is undergoing construction (more on this later).

After a brief chitchat with the Chieftain, he remembered that I still need to secure a permit from the Municipal Tourism Office of San Jose, Tarlac. Hence, I was forced to go back to the Municipal Hall and eventually, I was able to find my way to the Office of City Engineer Ramil De Vera. Unfortunately, he was not around at that time since he had to attend an official function.

Thinking that my personal streak is on the line, I called Engr. De Vera and immediately explained to him the situation. I was really so fortunate that he allowed me to climb Mt. Tangisan for that day.

I was made to fill-in the forms, which included the details of my climb. I was accompanied by one of the members of their staff at the Tourism/Engineering Office (Kuya Joel) in providing a copy to the Local Police Station. Then I contacted Chieftain Omeng to let Kuya Joel inform him that I have been given the clearance to climb Mt. Tangisan for that day.

Thank you very much to the Municipal Tourism Office of San Jose, Tarlac especially to Engr. De Vera and Kuya Joel. My unending gratitude likewise go to the local PNP, the Abeling Tribe (Kapitan Omeng, as always), and all the warm and welcoming people of San Jose.

In case you wish to climb in San Jose, you have to contact the Municipal Tourism Officer - Engr. Ramil De Vera - +63 908 8819789 or you may click on the link below for more details:

Tramping Advisory: San Jose Circuit - San Jose, Tarlac

Getting There
Private Transportation. There are two ways to go to San Jose. 

First is the more conventional route via Tarlac City. From the NLEX, go straight to SCTEX and take either the Luisita or Tarlac Exit. If you take the Luisita Exit, you have to turn right once you reach the McArthur Highway.

At the junction (after SM City Tarlac) take the road on the left side (going to Camiling and Alaminos) and continue until you reach Tarlac State University. Then turn left, and follow the Highway until you reach the KKK Gas Station (right side) and the St Gerard School (left side) a few ticks from crossing the bridge.

Then follow the signs leading to the Monasterio de Tarlac. In the steep climb a few kilometers from Monasterio, turn right towards the rough road leading to Sitio San Pedro. A kilometer and a half from there, you will arrive at the registration area (house of Kapitan Omeng).

Tribal Chireftain / Kapitan Omeng
Second option is by taking the Tarlac Exit of the SCTEX. Then turn left towards Tarlac City. Once you reach McArthur Highway, turn right (Metrotown Mall is to your right and opposite it is a branch of McDonald's). Go straight until you get past the Junction (there is a traffic light, a mall and Shell gas station on the left side). After the mall (there is a traffic light), take the highway to the left and continue until go reach the dead end (way past the junction in Mcdonald's). Then turn left and go past the bridge. Once you see the junction leading to the town of San Jose (KKK Gas Station), turn left and follow the signs leading to the Monasterio.

Another option is to take the Concepcion Exit of the SCTEX. Turn left towards the town of Capas. At the junction in Capas (McDonald's on the left and Caltex Gas Station on the right), turn right at the McArthur Highway. A few meters from here, turn left at the road leading to Mt. Pinatubo. This is the road before the Capas Municipal Hall. There are signs here going to the Monasterio.

You will have to make a series of turns but just follow the signs leading to the Monasterio de Tarlac. You will emerge somewhere in Brgy. Lubigan and continue to follow the signs leading to the Monasterio until you see the road leading to Sitio San Pedro.

Mt. Tangisan. It literally means "to weep" in the vernacular. According to my guide (Kagawad), the name Tangisan was derived from a legend involving two young maidens who both fell in love with the same man.

Kagawad said that as per their ancestors, the three are practically close with each other and would frequently climb Mt. Tangisan owing to the prevalence of Duhat Trees in the area. However, when the unfortunate time for the man to choose the woman that he would take as a wife came, he chose one of the aforementioned maidens.

Lovestruck and heartbroken, the other maiden decided to go up Mt. Tangisan, where she ceaselessly cried beneath the Duhat Trees that they used to frequent. Hence, the mountain was named Mt. Tangisan.

Simply Beautiful
Monasterio de Tarlac

Survivor of the fiery wrath...

The leaves of this tree are supposed
Kagawad...on our way back to the jumpoff

Tangisan and the rice fields

Some of the Mountains in San Jose; Pangasaan Lake; and a faint Mt. Arayat

Side Trip. Among the possible side trips include the Duglo Falls and the Pangasaan Falls, which are about an hour and a half hike from the registration area. The Pangasaan Lake is also ideal for fishing. Those who wish to take a dip in the cool waters of Meriones River may do so at the Saipan Beach or at the area near the bridge leading to Brgy. Lubigan.

Other possible side trips include the Capas War Memorial and the Monasterio de Tarlac.

Pangasaan Lake...up close

The Chapel where the Relic of the True Cross is kept.

The famous image of the Risen Christ at the Monaterio de Tarlac

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