I recognised Mt Tagapo and Talim Island from the window of my Cathay Pacific flight as it came into land at Manila airport. This was to be my first adventure in 2015 in the Philippines and to test my fitness for some hiking i had planned. Mt Tagapo seemed like the ideal trek and climb.
As i was staying in Taguig i thought that the 23 km trip to Binangonan, across the top of Lake Laguna, to take the boat to Talim Island would be straight forward. How wrong i was !!!!! In the end it took around five hours as we couldn’t find any transport to take us to Binangonan directly. We had to travel up to Pasig by bus and then take a van from Ortigas down again to Binangonan….. a long way.
We eventually arrived at Binangonan Port just after 12.00 and with the next boat leaving at 13.00 I was a bit worried that we may not make the climb and be back down again for the last boat back at 18.30 from Brgy Janosa on Talim Island. We had some lunch in a nearby eatery and then boarded the boat to Brgy Janosa. The fare was P30 one way.
Out on the water there was a clear view of the skyscrapers of Makati which emphasised to me how close the city and province had become. It was an hours journey along the shoreline of Binangonan to Brgy Janosa, passing small fishing villages, fishpens, houses on stilts and many other boats using the lake.
There were also good views of Mt Tagapo, which is 438m and is known locally as Susong Dalaga ( the maidens breast ), as the boat neared Talim Island.
Somehow we jumped off the boat one stop too early, but after sitting for an hour it was good to walk for 10 minutes to the Barangay Hall near the church where we had to register and pay P20 entrance fee. Since it was also our first time to climb Mt Tagapo we took a guide for P300, and he explained alot about the history and culture of the Island along the way.
The hike was quite easy at first, passing through the streets of the barangay and along the riverbed. Then we started to climb and on reaching a Mango tree the guide told us that we were now 1/4 of the way. A quick rest then we continued up through the forest, which was quite humid. The trail wasn’t that difficult, but for me coming straight from England i found that i was very unfit and easily got out of breath and had to stop many times for a rest.
There were a couple of plants that i recognised that also grow in Bicol. One called Langaton which if it touches your skin can cause severe itching. Another called “hagupit” which has a rough underside and is used for cleaning pots and pans.
I was glad when we reached a bamboo tunnel, took time for a photo shoot and rest, and knew that we were almost at the end of the humid forested section of the trail. The last part of the trail passes through grassland. Cogon grass grows here and in places was even taller than me. Cogon grass is used to make thatched roofs. Bamboo is also harvested by the local people and is made into furniture.
As we neared the summit of Mt Tagapo there was quite a strong wind blowing, which was a welcome change from the humidity of the forest. Views opened up all around the island and once at the summit we had a 360 degree view of Lake Laguna and the surrounding mountains with Mt Banahaw to the south.
Down on the lake we could see the pens of the tilapia fish farms and through the afternoon haze in the distance were the skyline of Makati. The guide told us that Mt Tagapo was still an active volcano which had a side vent and steam could sometimes be seen on its eastern side near Brgy Tuna.
There is a legend that at the summit of Mt Tagapo lies some buried treasure and you can see a huge hole that was dug by local people hunting for it. This has now been cordoned off and any further digging has been banned.
After enjoying the view it was time to go down again. We had 2 hours until the last boat left at 18.30 for the trip back to Binangonan. We arrived back at the port with time to spare and watched as the sun set over the Lake and the moon rose over Mt Tagapo on our way back to Binangonan.
How to get to Talim Island and Mt Tagapo
Find your way to Binangonan, Rizal and head to the port. Once there ask where to board the boat to Brgy. Janosa, Talim Island. The boat will leave when full usually. Fare is P30
On arrival at Brgy Janosa head to the Barangay Hall to register, pay P20 and hire a guide if you need one. Cost for guide is P300 for up to 6 people.
What to take
At least a litre of water
You can stock up with trail snacks at the sari sari store opposite the Barangay hall or bring from Binanongan with you.
small day pack
comfortable shoes or sandals
camera and spare batteries
hat and sunblock
Coming back into the Barangay i noticed this cockerel with his own clock…………..