Death defying hike to Mt. Cabuyao

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

It was said that Baguio’s cold weather is actually due to two large “fans” on top of a mountain which can be seen in most of the places around the city. Truth is these “fans” are actually radars and the mountain it’s on is called Mt. Cabuyao, or Kabuyao to the locals.

Mt. Cabuyao was one of the mountains in the Cordillera that tourists frequently go to since the hike is on a cemented road, it’s relatively short, and you can even take your car to get your dose of nature and feel Baguio in the clouds, in the coldest it can get. However, due to environmental issues concerning a politician’s greedy works around the area, the popular hiking trail/road was closed down indefinitely. In my 8 years in Baguio, I definitely have to reach that radar and see it up close, so I was lucky there’s another trail going there.

Gio decided to take me on a date last Tuesday and since we both love adventures so much, he decided on hiking Mt. Cabuyao from Camp 6. At first, I had hoped that we was joking. I dreaded walking that far (32 km — if you’re on the road) especially since it was a long time since we went to the mountains, but still I went for something new.

The entrance to the trail was in the same entrance going to Hydro Falls so the start of the hike is somewhat familiar to me. Once we passed the community and went actually hiking, I was feeling great being surrounded by nature. The first part of the hike was generally light since it really does feel like you’re just taking your normal morning walk. The slopes were gentle and the trail is well-established. The only issue I had was there were too many insects trying to sting us so I’m glad I applied a repellent beforehand.

We arrived at Baguio Water District’s reservoir which has been running for a long time and at the time, there were no people around to check on it. There is catchwater around the facility where you can sit nearby so we decided to rest there.

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

The actual color of the water is much bluer than shown.

The place looked so serene and the view is just so calming that I wanted to stay for a bit longer but Gio said we have to move because there is still a long, long way to go. Continuing the hike, the trail didn’t change that much. It was still really gentle so I was actually confident that we can finish this in no time. I was wrong. The dreaded part starts here.

We had to cross three pipe bridges before we can get to the actual trail leading to Cabuyao. I was so scared since I was wearing spiked shoes — gives me good traction on the ground but not solid surfaces. I was also scared of heights, I thought I could fall anytime. The bridges were rusty but were sturdy enough to hold Gio and I together.

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

Longest pipe bridge we have to cross.

After crossing the pipe bridges, we arrived at a small community with two to three houses. Strange enough, it looks like there were no people around but this one security guard. We asked him where the trail to Mt. Cabuyao is, but he told us that we were actually taking the wrong way. Since Gio hiked this before with other experienced mountaineers and said that there was this trail near these houses, the guard did say that there’s a trail behind one of the houses.

The trail was not as well-established as the previous trail we were walking on. Plants had kind of clumped together and I received my first blade grass injury from this trail. Aside from that, it was a constant ascent, and we had to pass through these wild dandelions that formed a low arch along with other branches from God-knows-which-plants. We had to stoop low to pass through, and the last arch we had to actually crawl. I didn’t get the chance to take a picture of these arches since I was too busy keeping branches off my face and evading small rocks for the sake of my knees. Surely enough, after passing through these arches, we found out that our pants had lots of sticklers on them and it got really itchy.

Then we get back to the steady ascent. More sticklers keep on sticking, more blade grass keeps on cutting, but we finally reached the first official resting point designated by the experienced mountaineers I mentioned earlier.

At this point, we’re running low on water. In my misfortune, I spilled what’s left of mine, so we had to share. Continuing the hike, we passed by trail markers so we knew that we were on the right track, until we arrived at this dense part of the mountain where you can’t see the trail unless you look really hard. I believe, at this point, we got lost.

The trail was so unforgiving. There were multiple cuts on my hands thanks to the blade grass. We had to scale up on the wall of the mountain — we either hold on to the scorched tree trunks or fall to our deaths. We were only focused on one goal: reach the top of this hill. So we took the way up even though there were no established trails (or I guess there was but we didn’t see it) and there were branches hitting our faces, I got cut on my lip, Gio’s hand is bleeding, my glasses almost fell to nowhere. It was such a trial, but seeing water pipes on top of the hill was our hope. It was like walking blindly for survival. Or as Filipinos say, “Bahala na. Makarating lang.”

We arrived on top, and there was this low wooden gate. Gio believes it’s the gate or boundary to another community, another trail marker. There was hope. He tried to scout for the trail, but he went around and ended up on the gate. At this point, I was praying we can get out of the dense forest. At this point, Gio looks so distraught, hopeless, because the trails are going nowhere.

Surprise! I hear ducks quacking. I saw this possible trail. I asked him if he wanted to follow the duck sound and we did. Indeed, there was a community, a small farm that he can remember, and we thought that we can finally get a water refill but no, we didn’t, because there were no people again. We were glad, however, to see an established trail we can follow. Although the trail is still full of clumped together plants, it led us to another community, and we actually saw another person who directed us to the right trail going up to Cabuyao. He also gave us drinking water which saved us.

The hike was, then again, a steady ascent. The trail was dense with plants. However, we don’t feel as hopeless and scared as we were before because there is always that community we can go back to and ask for help. Once we saw some huge rocks, Gio was celebrating. We were nearing the end of the hike. Just one last stop over on the established camping site of Mt. Cabuyao, called Pride Rock, and then another 45 minutes of hike to the viewdeck/radars then we’re good!

Reaching the Pride Rock was really difficult for me because of my shoes. I keep slipping on rocks but still, seeing that the goal was near, I had to keep going, and it was worth it.

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

View from the Pride Rock: most of Baguio City is here, from Quezon Hill to Loakan.

The view was breathtaking. It was so overwhelming, after all the hardships we went through to get here. We actually took out first snack here and I have to say that we’ve been hiking for 6 hours. It was my first time seeing Baguio in this perspective. I saw Loakan Airport as a whole and it feels amazing because whenever I am there I feel so small and at that moment, on top of Pride Rock, it was the airport that was scaled to a smaller size. Gio said that if you choose to camp here, you can definitely see the sunrise. I wonder how beautiful that would look like.

We continued our hike since it was getting dark and we were getting hungrier. Fortunately, we came across a local just doing his work, and he pointed us to the shortest but more difficult trail. I didn’t really care at that moment, I just wanted to get this one hell of a hike over and done with. So we meet again with a trail thick with plants, the sky is getting darker, we’re getting tired and our hands are bleeding, and it’s starting to drizzle. Thank God we finished the trail in record time and seeing the blue paint of the viewdeck was so relieving. We’re finally here. We’re safe.

It was so overwhelming seeing the radars up close, but it’s more overwhelming that after almost 7 hours of hiking with just our breakfast, water, and so little hope pushing us forward, we finally conquered that mountain. Now, every time I see those radars on the way home I still can’t believe that we were there. I still can’t believe we got lost and got out. It was such an amazing feeling. I think this hike even fortified our relationship so the purpose of the date was achieved!

Although the end was amazing, I don’t recommend hiking this trail until there is finally an established trail all throughout — maybe this will take years and years of locals and other daring people hiking on the same trail over and over again.

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If you really want to test yourself, then here’s what you need to know for your Cabuyao hike:

  • Fare: ₱17.50, one-way. Asked to be dropped off at Hydro 2. Once you see the sign for “Saved by Grace Church” with a hanging bridge nearby, you’re there.
  • Registration fee: None
  • Guide fee: None
  • Dayhike: 5-7 hours
  • Campsite: Yes, near Pride Rock
  • Water: No water sources; bring at least 4L for dayhikers (we got lucky with the local who gave us water. Also, don’t try piercing the water pipes to get your water!)
  • Cellphone/Data signal: Strong in all areas
  • Restrooms: None
  • Convenience Stores: Yes, at the start and end of the hike
  • Medical: None. Bring first aid kits.

On the way to Pride Rock, we actually passed by a burial ground. Make sure to respect the sacred grounds and be a responsible hiker!

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