Summit Journal: Kibungan Circuit

Finally back in Kibungan after a year, this time trekking on the Circuit route.

Some dubbed this place in the Cordillera as the “Switzerland of the Philippines” because of the grandeur of its landscape. However lavish this might sound, I still prefer not comparing it to any place as Kibungan will always be Kibungan. Someone who have been there could attest to the beauty of this place as its defining enchantment to anyone who ventured on her trails. My first trek in this area was through the crosscountry route passing by Benguet, Ilocos Sur, and La Union. It was my first multi-day hike lasting for three days to complete. This post, however, is an account of my two-day adventure in Mt. Tagpaya, Mt. Oten, and Mt. Tagpew of the Kibungan Circuit route.

Kibungan Circuit

If you’re on counting summits, this route will add three peaks on your list unlike the crosscountry, a thorough trekking on fifteen mountains and communities instead. There may be no summits to peak in this route, but I would still love to do crosscountry (aka Tri-provincial traverse) again because I am always after the experience and the majestic landscapes. It has something unique on its sleeves to offer that you will not see in the Circuit route as well such as Mt. Gedgeday-yan (the Crying Mountain) and the Litalit trail going to Sitio Licungan.

Tanap rice terraces.

Going back the circuit experience, still the jump-off starts at Sitio Tanap passing by rice fields and local communities. One could  even see their cemetery at the top of a hill. The trail was definitely a good warm-up for the entire day. What I love about Kibungan is it really brings out the trigger-happy in me. Wherever you look, there is something beautiful to see. We continued our trek as I reminisce my first Kibungan experience last February 2016. I looked for the spots I could still remember, check for changes if there is, and still tries to capture what I could find interesting. I enjoyed the trail and the surrounding that I didn’t mind being almost at the tail of the team. At lunch time we arrived at Buga campsite.

The view in this area still takes my breath away, just like the first time. After our much needed rest, we resumed our trek. Along the way, we passed by a burial site under a rock. This is something new for me as I failed to notice it before. It was there for a long time according to our guide.

Journey to the Wall

With the expanse of rock formation which looks like a big wall in front of us, we knew we’re nearly completing our goal for our first day and that was to reach the Mt. Tagpaya campsite and summit. At two in the afternoon, we arrived at the Tagpaya-Tacadang junction. We continued our trek to the campsite. The trail was still uphill, straightforward, and covered with pine shoots. When we made it at the site, we immediately pitched our tents and tarps. Some went to the summit which is a short hike from the area.

Approaching the wall.

Eto pala talaga si Mt. Tagpaya (So this is Mt. Tagpaya)”, I whispered to myself as I am in awe with the 360° view atop the summit of this mountain. The clouds were already covering the surrounding mountain-tops. We waited for the sun to set, it was definitely one of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen.

At Mt. Tagpaya summit.

We had fun socials that night before our lights out at nine. Since we planned to take photos of the night sky that night, I set my alarm at eleven and fell asleep in the hammock owned by Kevin. Before falling asleep, I find myself feeling giddy of the clear night sky above me hoping it would last for the whole night.

Wishful Thinking

I think the brightest shooting star I’ve seen that night heard my wish. The cloudy sky we woke up on turned clear and we were able to get decent photos of the stars. Suddenly I find myself wishfully thinking, I should’ve asked for the thing I’ve been wanting the most. I quickly removed the idea in my head. Maybe it was all just a coincidence because soon after the fog were after us and I’ve felt the chill creeping in. I guess, the cold does bothered me as well, I just kept on denying it.

Portion of the milky way faintly visible near Polaris, the north star,

Two for a Treat

A beautiful day welcomed us, we break our camps after a hearty breakfast and we continued on with our adventure. In summary, the trail up to Mt. Oten, the second mountain for the circuit route, was exemplary steep and exposed. Some parts were covered by pine trees and some with pigmy forest. There was a sharp ridge below that definitely pique my interest. I never thought we would be crossing that part. Exciting indeed!

Touch of first light in the Cordillera.
Up-hell going to Mt. Oten.
The fog really adds dramatic effect t the peaks of Mt. Tagpew as seen from Mt. Oten.
Ridge at the foot of Mt. Oten going to Mt. Tagpew.

We continued our trek to Mt. Tagpew. It was humid and near noon time, thus the heat of the sun slows us down. It was also a long assault before reaching the mossy forest and finally the nipa hut where we will have our lunch before pushing to the summit. From the hut, it was around 15-20 minutes going to the summit. There was a fork along the way, two of our team got lost to the campsite of Mt. Tagpew. Good thing they managed to get to the peak safely as there was a cliff at the edge of the campsite.

Count how many hikers are there in the picture on their way to Mt. Tagpew.
Powerpuff girls’ Merrel twinning at Mt. Tagpew’s summit.

The team resume the trek downhill. We were in groups. When we reached the first community, I thought it was over. But soon, I found myself on long walks across rice paddies again. Alone in the trail most of the time, I find myself worrying if I ever got lost along the way. Good thing I see one or two nipa huts which made me felt at peace with the trail I’m taking. Sometimes, I do notice some of the trail marks the lead team made and I followed it. I’m glad to finally see two of my companions. We continued our trek to the river which was longer than I thought since the sound of the flowing water seems so near.

Sampinit or Philippine wild raspberries.

Pigmy pitcher plant.

One Last Push

From the river, we have to cross boulders and a small creek. I’m so cautious because the last time I have been on a similar kind of trail, I saw a snake as big as my arm! Good thing there’s none on that one. Phew. After that short assault, it took us around 20 minutes before reaching the cemented road. And we’re done. We finished our journey at six in the evening that day. We waited shortly for the others to arrived and glad we were all safe after our hike.

Special thanks to Kuya Poi (Jepoi Mansibang) of Mansibang Outdoor Institute for organizing this 2-day adventure for us. (Nov. 2017) #WeDidItMOIWay

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