September 24, 2016
What started out as a simple invite to climb a minor mountain in Laguna turned out to be one of the most memorable climbs in my book. How does one go from just being curious about Mt. Kalisungan to hiking it plus two other mountains? This is the story of the Laguna trilogy I did with my U-trek friends.
I recently invited my legit mountaineer friend for a hike in her province. It’s a long time coming, but I’ve always wanted to finish Mt. Kalisungan as it is a dayhikeable mountain near manila. But she found that Kalisungan was too easy for her, she looked around for a challenge and invited the rest of her hiking group to a Laguna Trilogy. This hike isn’t popular yet, as internet searches yielded no results except for this event itinerary. In fact, I haven’t even heard of Mt. Prinza before. But because I was the one who initially invited them for a hike on this day, I had no choice but to go with them.
Coming from work, I boarded a bus in buendia bound for Sta. Cruz. We were to meet up at that friend’s house in Los Baños and spend the night there as well. But some things didn’t go as planned and I ended up overshooting my alighting point. I had to take the jeep back to the junction where I met up with them and finally I was able to rest.
What was supposed to be a 3am start ended up with us meeting kuya Bino at around 5am at the Duck junction. Good thing he was still kind enough to wait for us. So we set off with his wife to the baranggay to register. Once that was done, we had the tricycles drop us off at the trailhead of Mt. Atimla, the first mountain for the day.
I had previous knowledge that Mt. Atimla is a bit lower than Mt. Kalisungan so I thought it would be an easy climb. I was wrong. It was constant assaults and to make things more challenging, it was also muddy af. The trail reminded me of Mt. Mabilog, which is understandable since it is also in Laguna and it was also kuya Bino who blazed that trail.
In no time at all, my shoes were completely covered in mud. The trail alternated between being covered and open, but the morning breeze really helped everyone get over the uphills. It was pretty much muddy trails all the way up to the summit. We all slipped and slid around and did splits to maneuver along the route.
At the summit, there wasn’t much of a view. Only Mt. Kalisungan has an open view at the summit. There was a small unoccupied house that marked the summit as well as a Gumamela tree. We caught our breaths and had some pictures before backtracking for a bit and going to a separate trail that leads to Mt. Kalisungan.
The trail to Kalisungan passed through some local plantations and then returned to muddy horse tracks. But as soon as we got higher up the mountain, the trail began to grow wilder and wilder. It was pretty obvious that not a lot of people have been through this trail. I think it’s been a while since someone has done an Atimla-Kalisungan traverse.
Spiky plants were everywhere so we had to be careful where to hold on to. There were also lots of wild fauna along the trail.
After the wild part of the trail, I began to see the talahib grass which signified that the summit was getting closer. The tall trees finally gave way and as we popped out of the forest canopy, we were welcomed with the beautiful view of Laguna.
But despite coming out of the trees, we still had a bit of a way to go before reaching the summit. This time, the trail was open. But since it was blooming season for the talahib, we still had a bit of a cover, even though we could hardly see the trail because of this as well. Take note that the talahib were taller than us!
Finally, after more hiking up and deflecting the grass from our faces, we reached the first peak of Mt. Kalisungan. Here, we took a short break and rested our legs. I soaked up the sun as my companions cooled for a bit.
Then we passed by peak 2 and finally reached the summit! Pictures commenced for a while before we started our descent. Blooming season meant tall grass blocking most of the view, plus there was a light fog in the surrounding areas as well. But nevertheless, we did catch some of the sights around the mountain and it was quite obvious that Mt. Kalisungan is the highest point in the area.
Because the sun was already bearing down on us hard, we started our descent via the traditional trail of the mountain. Here, we encountered a few hikers who were struggling with the slippery mud, as well as another friendly face:
One of the highlights of this day was when kuya Bino stopped us along the trail and proclaimed that there was a snake in the path. Curious, I stepped forward and found the snake hugging a tree. It looked so much like a piece of vine, anyone could’ve grabbed it. It was so beautiful I had to get up close and take a picture of it. It slithered away once it was aware of our presence, but thank goodness I was able to get a picture. Nature is really mesmerizing!
So anyway, back to the hike, we reached a big mango tree where locals were feeding their horses and taking a rest. We decided to have lunch here as well. Looking around, the area was filled with lots of rambutan. This was what they were harvesting and loading on their horses.
Once lunch was finished, it was a short walk towards a junction where we entered to climb up the last mountain for the day.
The trail going to Mt. Prinza was a long walk through local communities first. There were some sari-sari stores where we bought refreshments from. After that it passes through more plantations and muddy horse tracks until it reaches a thick forest. Though the trails were already quite established, there were still lots of junctions that one could get lost in. I was repeatedly being amazed that horses climbed up these trails because some parts were very steep and dangerous.
We also had a single river crossing. I liked this part because I was able to wash my shoes for a bit to remove the mud. However there were tons of mosquitos in the area so we had to keep moving.
Then the trail once again returned to the usual banana trees and mud.
Somewhere along the trail, we were walking slowly because we were a bit fatigued from the first two mountains already. When I looked down, I saw a cute baby snake on the ground, right beside my companion’s foot! It was adorable so I had to take a picture of it.
After taking the picture, it slithered away into the grass and we continued our hike. But this time most of our companions now were very careful of their steps unless they want to accidentally step on a snake because if there’s a baby, there’s a mommy. The trail continued upwards and upwards and we had to take some rest every now and then. It was a good thing that we were the only ones climbing the mountain today so we had the place all to ourselves.
The trail was the kind where you ask yourself why you’re doing this. Yet I also enjoyed the climb a lot because I was on the lookout for other species of animals. There was even a time when a bat swooped around us. In other mountains, the number of hikers have driven away all the fauna in the area, but with a mountain this wild, there was still a chance to see the local plants and animals untouched.
There were also some open parts where we enjoyed the breeze as well as the view of the surrounding area.
After countless more assaults, we reached the Mt. Prinza viewdeck. This was a clearing where one local was tending to his plantation. It amazed me how far he was from civilization, but it really shows their determination to grow crops even in the farthest of places. We took a quick rest here while absorbing the beautiful view.
From the viewdeck, the summit is a 15-minute hike away. We scrambled around potato plants and other trees until we reached the base of a radio antenna. This was the summit marker, kuya Bino told me, and it is no longer functional because it always breaks down and is very hard to maintain. and that this was only his 2nd time to go up here. That means that we are the 2nd group to complete the Laguna trilogy! Once the whole group was complete, we ate some snacks and took pictures. Hurray!
The summit doesn’t have a view yet because it was overgrown with talahib, but kuya Bino told me that if there is interest in the mountain, they can get locals to shave off some of the grass to provide some view. Once we were done eating, we went down, said thank you to the local, and descended along the same path until we were back to the local houses and concrete roads. From there, we continued to walk until the tricycle terminal. We had one final group picture before taking the tricycle to a jeepney stop and returning to Los Baños.
Itinerary and Cost breakdown:
- 05:05 ETA Duck Junction, buy food then proceed to trailhead
- P80 per trike (4 people), Trike to trailhead
- 05:30 ETA Trailhead, Start trek
- 07:15 ETA Atimla Summit, photo ops
- 07:30 ETD Atimla Summit
- 09:15 Kalisungan Peak 3
- 09:35 Kalisungan Peak 1 (Main Summit), photo ops
- 09:45 ETD Kalisungan Summit
- 11:15 ETA Big Mango tree, lunch
- 12:05 ETD Big Mango tree
- 12:30 Kalisungan-Atimla Junction
- 15:25 Prinza Viewdeck
- 15:40 ETA Prinza Summit
- 15:55 ETD Prinza Summit, Start descent
- 17:30 ETA Tricycle terminal, return to highway
- P60 per trike (4 people), Trike to trailhead
- Guide fee is P400 per mountain. We paid P1200 + tip to kuya Bino. He’s the one who made the trails and also the only guide who knows the trilogy route well (because he made it). You can contact him at 0999 410 0991.
- The route is mostly local trails and horse trails. Because of this, it can get really really muddy during the wet season or after a rain.
- Because of the relatively new and seldom-used trail, it can get really wild when you’re hiking, expect lots of scratches, and bite marks. Wear proper protection.
- There are no water sources along the trail and the Mt. Kalisungan peaks are open while the rest are mostly covered. Prepare accordingly.
Safe budget: P1000
Whew, that was quite a climb. I don’t usually do these kinds of climbs, but it’s good to finally cross off Mt. Kalisungan from my list. Plus two more mountains! Not bad for a newbie like me.
Special thanks to my U-trek companions for being very accommodating of my pace and for waiting for me whenever I lagged behind. It was very pressuring to hike with the legit mountaineers, but you were all very kind to me. Thank you Jonel, Loren, Ulphan, Jose, and most especially to Pritsy for the Los Baños tour and the overnight accommodations. Until we hike again!
Also to Kuya Bino and wife, for not abandoning us when we were a bit late to the meet-up. Thank you for the patience in guiding us. Maybe we’ll try the Laguna Quadrilogy next time. Lol. Nah.
To my family for not complaining with my weekend escapades and to papa God for the wonderful weather, thank you.
I recommend this trilogy dayhike for those in Laguna with nothing better to do lol. This trail will surely introduce you to the dirty side of mountaineering, especially if you climb during the rainy season. Plus if you guys are fast hikers, you can surely end the day with a sidetrip to one of the many waterfalls in Laguna. I probably wont do this again, because what an experience this was, but that’s still open for negotiation. It’s still highly enjoyable, and who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of more cute snakes along the trail.
Thank you for reading, and I encourage you all to try this adventure. Just contact trailmaster Bino for more details. Climb safe!