By Christian Jayson Narciso and Jerome Austria
“Finding a precious gemstone diamond in the middle of the unknown,” this is exactly how it feels to explore the unknown. There were mixed emotions as this will be the first time where a group of nature enthusiast would explore the mountain. The feeling of uncertainty, added with the breath-catching feeling of exhilaration lifted the conviction of the Nueva Ecija Backpackers and Mountaineers Community (NEBMC) – Exploration team to start a journey towards the unexplored beauty of Nueva Ecija. We don’t have any idea of the mountain’s difficulty range, are there going to be snakes along the trail, or some other wild predators, or even a Cannibal community amidst the jungle. Perhaps it makes us uncomfortable because it is quite uncommon to our own limited experience of several usual hikes.
Date of Exploration: January 17, 2016
Name of mountain: Mt. Kemalugong
Location: Laur, Nueva Ecija
Entry Point/Jump off Location: Brgy Hall Siclong, Laur Nueva Ecija
Summit Coordinates: LAT 15.58395 LONG 121.30634
Coordinates: LAT 15.580455 LONG 121.222735
Estimated Elevation: 1750+ MASL
Days required/ Hours to summit: 1-2 days/ 20-24 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 5/9, trail class 1-4
Phone signal: +
Lipa (Poison Ivy): +++
Features: Grass and pine ridges, scenic view of the Cordillera mountains and Central Luzon
To search something new out of curiosity is the main reason for this exploration hike. This peak can be seen from afar once you reached the Maharlika Highway in Nueva Ecija. Based on our pre-hike research, this unexplored mountain is located in Laur, Nueva Ecija and is considered to be the highest peak of the province. Also, we have noted that this mountain has no name yet and this is going to be the first explored mountain in the province “if ever”.
The NEBMC – Exploration team members are (from left to right) Christian Jayson Narciso, Jerome Austria, Jon-jon Bacquel Garcia, Alvin Yuzon, Christobal Linda (guide), Marty Cellona and Joy Ann Marie Arieta. All geared up to an exciting adventure of finding something new through the use of compass, maps, premonitions and luck. The long trek started at 4:00 am.
The Exploration team was inspired by the fact that Nueva Ecija is surrounded by majestic yet unexplored mountains, and exploring would open possibilities of promoting the beauty of these mountains through ecotourism while protecting the same from any form of acts that threatens their natural wonders. They endeavor to live in their dream of reaching peaks and summits that no one has ever reached yet, with the intention of promoting and protecting these majestic gifts of nature.
According to our vigorous guide (Kuya Tobal), locals of the barangay calls the mountain as “Kemalugong.” Kemalugong is an Ilocano term for Kem-malluggong (rootword “Kallugong” means hat) meaning as if there is a hat. It is believed that they are referring to clouds that looks like a hat in the peaks of this mountain. The mountain is located at the boundary of Aurora and Nueva Ecija. Kuya Tobal added that there were communities of Aeta who used to reside in this particular mountain. Mt. Kemalugong is part of Cordillera mountains. From its summit, you can view the whole province of Nueva Ecija, Pampangga, Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Rizal, Quezon Province, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Mountain Province and some part of Cordillera, Mt. Arayat, Mountains of Rizal, and Alintutuan Creek.
View from Gordon Hill (Click the photo for better quality):
The 2-day exploration hike was filled with adventure and excitement. With every step of uncertainty towards the summit, the team finds enthusiasm in making trails amidst the heights of several kinds of trees. There were instances where the exploration team lost excitement in finding trails, but we are thankful to our vigorous guide in making ways to proceed with the exploration. The feeling of disappointment for not reaching the summit sometimes lowered the morale of the exploration team. But at the end of more than 12-hour long and exhaustive trek, the summit (eventually named as “Paasa Peak”) was reached.
The camaraderie within the group is likewise highlighted throughout the duration of the exploration considering the diversity of the profession and experience of the team members.
After necessary arrangement and coordination with the concerned local government unit, Mt. Kemalugong is now open for mountaineers and nature lovers for them to experience a place where a sea of clouds can be viewed free.
Complete Itinerary, How – tos, Cost and Contacts:
2230 At Cubao, Take a bus ride bound to Cabanatuan City
0130 ETA Cabanatuan City Terminal,
0200 ETD going to Brgy. Siclong (Private Vehicle)
0330 ETA Jumpoff Point Brgy. Siclong, Registration @Brgy. HallEntry Point side of Brgy. Cemetery
0400 Start trek (Farmland)
0415 River Crossing
0510 ETA Gordon River(water source)
0530 ETA Kubo sa Kawayanan
0600 Start Trek up to Gordon Hill/Cogon Area
0645 Arrival at Forested Area
0715 ETA Giant Baliti Tree
0720 Start trek up (series of uphill and downhill)
0930 ETA @ Creepy Kubo
1130 Possible Lunch stop at the trail
1230 Start Trek Up
1330 ETA Tobal’s Trail/ Hunter’s Trail
1600 Arrival @Campsite Set up tent (optional)
0500 Wake up Call/Breakfast
0600 Start trek to Paasa Peak via Paasa Ridge
0725 ETA @ Paasa Peak Campsite
0735 ETA @ Mt. Kemalugong Summit (Paasa Peak)
0830 Start Descent
0945 Campsite (Break Camp)
1100 Start Descent via Tobal’s Trail
1445 ETA at Giant Baliti Tree
1500 Arrival Gordon Hill/Cogon Area
1630 ETA Gordon River
1745 River Crossing
1830 Arrival at Brgy. Hall (Tidy Up)
1850 Head Back to Cabanatuan City (via rented service)
Click the photo for the better quality
How – tos and Cost:
Bus Terminal to Cabanatuan Terminal:
From 5 Star Farmers take a Bus ride going to Cabanatuan. Tell the conductor to alight you at Cabanatuan Terminal.
Fare: 185 per head
Cabanatuan Terminal to Bato Perry:
Ride a jeep from terminal to Bato Perry, Laur
Fare: 40 per head
Note: first trip of Jeepney Going to Bato Perry is 5 AM last trip is 5:40 PM.
Bato Perry to Siclong Brgy Hall:
Ride a Tricycle from Bato Perry to Siclong Brgy Hall (major jump off)
Fare: 20 per head
Guide (1:10) 500/10- 50 per head
Brgy Siclong to Cabanatuan Terminal:
Tricyle Brgy Siclong to Cabanatuan terminal
Fare: 600/5 – 120 per head
Note: You may opt to follow the How – tos of going here but take note that the last trip of Jeepney from Bato Perry to Cabanatuan terminal is around 3:30 – 4:00 PM.
Cabanatuan to Manila
From Cabanatuan terminal, take a bus ride going to Manila
Fare: 185 per head
Total Cost: 600 per head exclusive of food
View along the way of Mt. Kemalugong
Click the photo for the better quality
Brgy. Capt. Zosimo Tabing Jr – 09196908901
Councilor Jerry Sapon – 09075115765
Brgy. Sec. Edward del Rosario – 09494512491
The NEBMC – Exploration team
The squad leader and the navigator of the exploration team who takes charge in keeping track of where we are at all times. Driven by his passion in exploration hikes, he is considered to have the highest morale among the exploration team members.
Jon-jon Bacquel Garcia
The go-to guy of the exploration team if/when hiking is in action. Out of his approximately three years of experience in mountain hiking, he is the exploration team’s point person for survival stuff and clown for his unparalleled sense of humor.
Joy Anne Marie Arieta
She is “the rose among the thorns” being the only lady member of the exploration team. Ma’am Joy is a vital member of the exploration team being the cook, medic and expert in MoSAR & WSAR. Above all these, she is the sunshine that lights up the world of Sir Marty.
Fact: Joy is an award winning strong woman of BFP.
The youngest among the exploration team members but this young man helps in taking first aid measures should there be a need to do so along with Joy. Basic life support is where he specializes in. He works hand in hand with Jon-jon in maintaining good vibes within the exploration team with his inspired “hugot” punch lines.
The “newbie” being the youngest in as far as mountaineers circle of experience is concern. With his enthusiasm in sharing great memories, Jerome takes charge of the exploration hikes’ documentation in writing. He is the first person who always asks for break to eat trail food.
Christian Jayson Narciso
The “photo enthusiast” who converts wonderful memories, majestic sceneries and candid moments into pictures that last long. He expresses so much interest in activities that gives a breath-catching feeling of exhilaration. To him, uniting with nature is more than just a recreation but a passion to live on.