Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mt. Tabayoc - Into the mossy forest and up in the clouds

“Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.” (Edmund Hillary)

After our Outreach Climb, a good number of us participants decided to climb Mt. Tabayoc, which at 2842+ MASL is considered to be the 2nd highest mountain in Luzon. Not to be outdone by its more famous and higher next door neighbor (Mt. Pulag), Mt. Tabayoc's claim to fame is its mossy forest that is supposed to be one, if not the most beautiful of its kind.

Located just next to Mt. Pulag, Mt. Tabayoc is located in probably one of the wettest places in the Philippines. Hence, it is normal for hikers to get soaking wet when climbing Mt. Tabayoc. On the other hand, according to the locals living within the vicinity of Lake Tabeo, fair weather usually comes in January to April. As such, prepare your climb accordingly.

At the Summit / View deck of Mt. Tabayoc

A cloudy scene

Ready to go!
From Tinaleb Elementary School, twelve adventurous climbers rode on a jeepney to get to Lake Tabeo. While the road in Tinaleb also leads up to Lake Tabeo, Mang Santi and our driver advised us that it would be easier to go back down to Ballay Proper and then take the concrete road for supposedly another two (2) kilometers (as per the sign located at the Ballay Junction) until Lake Tabeo, where the Ballay Ranger Station is incidentally situated.

It was a cool and breezy morning, with light showers intermittently passing. The hike up to Mt. Tabayoc started at the ranger station in Lake Tabeo. We then followed the foot path just after the bridge cum spillway. Rows and rows of vegetable terraces/gardens, particularly those planted with cabbages, led us into the forest.

The Ballay Ranger Station is located in Lake Tabeo  

Just before entering the mossy forest

At its initial approach, the forest is composed of huge dipterocarp trees, which slowly gave way to the mossy forest as we went on the hike. As Mang Santi explained to us, the higher and deeper into the forest we go, the smaller the trees become. Once we entered the forest, it was a continuous ascent from then on. However steep the climb is, you seldom notice it really because the monkey trail would make available roots and branches where you can cling on to as you make your ascent. Hence, you get to make use of your hands and arms aside from your legs. In other words, hikers would actually be treated to a total workout during the climb.


An hour and a half into the climb, we arrived at the view deck. Unfortunately for us, rain clouds block our view of the surroundings at that time. But if ever there is a clearing, one will be treated to a panoramic view of the other side of Cordillera. The view deck (clearing) is also a good place to rest.

As we went on, we encountered natural bonsai trees with mossy branches and protruding roots. It was surreal, to say that it was a different kind of world perhaps would still be an understatement. Our amazement on how beautiful the mossy forest is made the arduous climb a lot easier. One of the many light moments that we had during the climb was when Mang Santi made us taste a Begonia plant.

It's a different world out there!

Slippery Hike

Unique flora

Mossy Forest



After 2 hours and 20 minutes of hiking, we finally arrived at Peak 1. From here, it took us another thirty more minutes to reach the summit, where the locals purposely built a wooden view deck atop the forest canopy. While lady luck did not smile upon us on that day (as rain clouds blocked the view), still, the view of the forest from above is breathtaking. It actually seemed to be a walk in the clouds.

A light moment in the mossy forest.

Climbing the stairs to the view deck.


Cloudy / Rainy Day!

We made it!

Isang bagsak naman diyan!

We spent a few minutes at the summit view deck. And as cold rain and punishing winds continued to batter us, we eventually decided to make our descent back to Lake Tabeo. The rain made our ensuing descent more difficult since the trail became more slippery. While we had to be more careful in negotiating steep inclines some of us even had to slide their way down (maybe not on purpose) in some portions of the trail.

At 1245H, we finally were able to reach the jump off point. While we were all dead tired and soaking wet from the cold and punishing rain that seemed to have accompanied us throughout the climb, we were all pleased and feeling lighthearted because of the one of a kind experience that Mt. Tabayoc has offered.

Traipsing Chronicles #039
Mt. Tabayoc
Jump off point: Lake Tabeo, Barangay Ballay, Kabayan, Benguet
Major Climb: 6/10
Highlights: Mossy Forest, Sea of Clouds, Mystical Lakes of Kabayan, Vegetable Terraces, Panoramic view of Mt. Pulag

***Credits to the owners of the pictures used in this post

Actual Itinerary:

0600H - Departure from Tinaleb Elementary School
0640H - Arrival at the Ranger Station / Lake Tabeo
0700H - Start Hike up to Mt. Tabayoc
0715H - Arrival at the approach of the forest
0835H - Arrival at the view deck
0920H - Arrival at the 1st Peak
0950H - Arrival at the Summit / Photo-ops
1005H - Commenced descent to JOP/Lake Tabeo
1035H - Back at 1st Peak
1105H - Back at the view deck
1230H - Out of the forest / Back at the vegetable gardens
1245H - Back at the JOP / Wash Up / Lunch
1330H - Coffee Time / Free Time / Waited for the other hikers
1645H - Departure from Lake Tabeo
1700H - Arrival at the Ballay Junction / Bought Souvenirs / Snacks
1715H - Departure from Ballay Junction for Baguio City
2100H - Arrived in Baguio City
2130H - Late Dinner at Good Taste
2300H - Departure from Baguio for Manila
0245H - Arrival at McDonalds Quezon Ave. cor. EDSA

If you want to climb Mt. Tabayoc, or to just visit the mystical lakes, it is best to coordinate with Mr. Santiago Ballagan (Mang Santi) at 0910-752-2655 and with the DENR Park Ranger in Ballay, Mr. Arlan Bugtong at 0946-592-8483 / 0999-389-8711. You may also contact the local Tourism Office in Kabayan, Benguet

Mystical Lakes of Kabayan. Aside from Lake Tabeo, one may visit the other mystical lakes in the ares, namely: Lake Bulalacao, Lake Latepngapo, and Lake Incolos. Another hiking possibility is to trek Junior Pulag,

Getting There
Private Transportation. From Metro Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway, traverse the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway, and go straight until the last toll exit of the Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEX), which as of the moment is the Binalonan Exit.

From there, turn right towards the McArthur Highway and once you reach the junction, turn left (northwards) towards Baguio. Once you reach La Union, you may opt to take Kennon Road or Marcos Highway.

Once in Baguio City, proceed to Pacdal Circle and take the Ambuklao-Nueva Vizcaya Highway. Go straight until you reach the junction in Gurel (Bokod Town), which is more or less 30 minutes from the Ambuklao Dam. In Gurel, take the Highway on the left of the junction. Once you arrive at the junction leading to the DENR and Babadak, take the road on the left and continue towards Kabayan. You will reach Kabayan Poblacion in about 40 minutes (depending on your pace).

In Kabayan, go past the Poblacion and just follow the Gurel-Kabayan-Abatan Highway (Bokod-Kabayan-Buguias Highway).Go past the junction to Kabayan Barrio. Also, once you reach the bridge, which is more or less 20 minutes from Poblacion, be wary of the junction to Ballay on the right side of the road.

Once there, turn right and just go straight the seemingly unceasing ascent until you reach the Ballay Junction where an arch welcoming you to Ballay Elementary School is located. At the junction, continue towards the ascending road on the left. You will continue to pass by vegetable gardens until you finally reach Lake Tabeo where the Ranger Station is also located.

PS. It is possible for SUVs to reach the jumpoff (Lake Tabeo). But you would still need someone with exceptional driving skills in making this ascent, just to be safe.

It is also possible to take the Halsema Highway in going to Lake Tabeo. You continue towards Abatan and take the Bokod-Kabayan-Buguias Highway on the right once you reach the junction. However, it is possible that some parts of the road is still under construction. Should you take this route, the junction to Ballay (now on the left side of the road) may be reached in 1 hour, take or give 20 minutes, depending on your pace.

Also, hikers who climb Mt. Timbac may also descend through Kabayan Barrio and then ascend again towards the Bokod-Kabayan-Buguias Highway. Then take note of the Bally junction mentioned above.

Public Transportation. Take a bus from Manila to Baguio City. Proceed to the Slaughterhouse terminal and ride the bus bound for Kabayan which takes roughly about 4-5 hours. The bus may go directly to Ballay Junction, which is supposedly two (2) kilometers to Lake Tabeo, the jump off point to Mount Tabayoc. The travel time to Ballay from Kabayan Poblacion is 45-minutes to 1 hour.

An option to take a UV Express in Baguio to Kabayan Poblacion is available. However, once in Poblacion, one should take a habal-habal (for Php500.00 each person) in going to Ballay. You may haggle with the habal-habal driver to take you directly to Lake Tabeo, if not, another option is to just walk / hike from Ballay Junction to Lake Tabeo.

Other Essentials. The assault to Mount Tabayoc generally takes 3 hours. It maybe even longer depending on the pace of the climbers and the prevailing weather conditions.

It gets cold and sometimes even wet during the hike. It also is windy at the viewdeck. As such, bringing a jacket and/or a poncho is a must. Th use of gloves may also be helpful as one negotiates the monkey trail which shall entail hikers to grab roots and branches for support.

Guides. Guides are mandatory when climbing Mount Tabayoc. The labyrinthine trail may actually be quite confusing. The eminent guide in Mt. Tabayoc is Mr. Santiago Ballagan (also referred to as "Mang Santi" ). According to Mang Santi, he is the one who made the trail in Mt. Tabayoc, as well as the trail in nearby Mt. Al-al. The sons (we met Josiah Ballagan at the Ranger Station) of this cheerful man also serve as guides in Mt. Tabayoc.

It is possible for Mang Santi to coordinate your transportation from Baguio City. Just provide him the details and he will take care of all your needs. Usually, they would include a short hike in Mt. Timbac in the itinerary of climbers in Mt. Tabayoc.

Also, I have noticed that while the guides in Mt. Tabayoc are all up to the task, they lack even the most basic of mountaineering gears. They would hike in jeans and on the usual everyday clothes. While they are not actually asking, I believe that if ever climbers could share them excess gears, they would surely appreciate it.

Mang Rudy

At the center is Mang Santi.

Home Stay. During our ocular visit at Tinaleb, the stormy weather in Lake Tabeo forced quite a number of mountaineers to stay at the house of Mang Santi. He is really so eager to welcome anyone and makes sure that your needs are well taken care of.

Also, there are local houses that may offer shelter in Lake Tabeo, albeit, for a minimal fee. Just inform Mang Santi beforehand so that he may be able to coordinate this with the homeowners.

Monkey Trail. The forest trail in Mt. Tabayoc is referred to as Monkey Trail because as mentioned earlier, climbers would also be using their arms and hands in negotiating the forest trail. The narrow foot path in the mossy forest is considered by those who have traipsed on it as one of the most beautiful in the country. It is a world like no other.

Lovey dovey

Part of the monkey trail


Taking time to rest

So worth it!

Kaya pa!

Akyat Na! 

Hopeful for a clearing

Crossing the log-bridge


  1. Sir pwedeng pa share ng contact number ng guide? And their rate :) thabk you

    1. Hi Mam! Paki-contact na lang po si Mr. Santiago Ballagan (Mang Santi) at 0910-752-2655. Sya po at mga anak nya ang usual na guide sa Mt. Tabayoc at pati na rin sa 4 mystical lakes. May FB din po yung anak nya na si Josiah Ballagan, pwede nyo po i-PM about more details.

      Sorry po mam at negotiated rate po yung guide fees namin noon kasi nag-outreack climb po kami sa kanila sa Sitio Tinaleb noon bago umakyat. Although dinagdagan din naman po namin yun binigay namin ultimately.

      Pero ang tanda ko po is P1,000 yung guide fee (1 guide for 5 hikers) tapos hanggang 7 hikers minsan pumapayag sila. Sa registration fees naman po, prepare na lang po kayo ng at least P200.00 kasi pinagbigyan nga po nila kami noon ng mas mababang rate bilang pasasalamat na rin nila sa amin.

      Usually po, ginagawa nina Mang Santi eh Mt. Timbak kayo sa 1st Day then Mt. Tabayoc yung 2nd Day. Kapag natuloy po kayo mam, pakikamusta na lang po sya. Happy Hiking po mam.

  2. wala na po bang ibang requirements sa pag akyat? salamat

    1. Hi Sir, wala naman po. Coordinate na lang po kayo kay Mang Santi or sa Ranger sa Lake Tabeyo. Baka po kasi dumerecho kayo sa Tabeo ng walang guide, medyo malayo po kasi yan mula sa Ballay. Matagal po ang hihintayin nyo kung sakali na hintayin nyo pa yung guide mula sa Ballay.

      Happy Hiking Sir!

    2. ok sir!salamat ng marami ^_^

      By the way sir nice blog, keep it up.