Discover these four great hiking destinations within the land of the Dumagat in Tanay, Rizal
On a parcel of the mountainous lands that surround Tanay is Cuyambay. This upland village is home to a community of the indigenous Dumagat tribe. Learned in the ways of the wild, the Dumagat call the mountains their home, and the peaks that ring the village is, in fact, their ancestral domain. Like many indigenous tribes in the Philippines, the Dumagat live off the land. They have memorized the paths to the forests and know which plant would quench your hunger or render you paralyzed. Unfortunately, the Dumagat, too, practice a pair of destructive traditions: kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) and paguuling (charcoal harvesting).
For many years, the Dumagat made their living through this couple of unsustainable practices. Only very recently did they decide to turn things around. Realizing that their once thriving mountains are now getting denuded, some of the members of the tribe decided to launch an ecotourism plan to provide the community with alternative means of livelihood. Taking heed from nearby barangays (villages), Cuyambay decided to offer three of its mountains to hikers.
Learn more about these summits, consider visiting them, and you will not only get to see amazing natural landscapes, but get to protect it and help provide a community with a more sustainable way of living.
Mt. Sapari and Mt. Binutusan, collectively known as the Maysawa Circuit, is popular for its famed “sea of clouds.” This hard to come by view often graces the summits of these mountains, delighting hikers with wispy clouds and cool drafts.
Maysawa’s trail goes through an upland community before passing through the woods. It then ascends into mostly grassland well unto the peaks, offering a 360-degree view of undulating hills. The circuit can be traversed completely in about six hours, which includes a quick stop at the spring and waterfalls on the way down. You may, however, opt to visit just one mountain for half the trekking time.
Not for the faint of heart (and knees)
Of all the mountains in Cuyambay, Mt. Paliparan took the most hits from being a “favorite” of illegal charcoal harvesters. A great part of it used to be barren, dry brown and perpetually covered in smoke and ash. When it was finally decided to have it converted into a hiking destination, the mountain was able to recover slowly and is now regaining most of its vegetation. The once sad brown of this peak is now transforming into bright, fresh hues of green.
If we were to rank Cuyambay’s mountains by difficulty, Paliparan would be at the top. Its mostly open trail is composed of abrupt inclines and unforgiving slopes, making it sheer torture for the legs. However, the limestone outcrops that serve as view decks dotting the trails make the assaults absolutely worth it. These decks all afford a panorama of Tanay’s mountainous terrain and a sweeping view of all of Cuyambay. Furthermore, a traverse also leads to Sitio Tuoy – a more intact Dumagat community – and a watercourse that leads to the tiered Tungtong Falls.
A rock icon
With a name that means “jagged” or “uneven,” Mt. Masungki (from this writer’s humble opinion) has the most beautiful trail of the trio of Cuyambay mountains. The scenic path wounds through a thick forest of tall hardwoods that managed to escape the illegal logging that used to plague the village. Because of the towering trees, most of the trail has an awning of foliage. The lush vegetation also makes for a cool, and not so exhausting hike. While not as difficult as Paliparan’s, Masungki still offers a bit of a challenge. Dotting the trail are limestone outcrops that require a little scrambling and careful maneuvering around sharp rocks. The most interesting part, of course, is the summit where a billboard-like structure can be found. This incongruous feature was speculated to be some kind of radar installation. The view from here is also breathtaking – 360-degree and ripe with waves of hills and valleys.
In addition to the scenic trail, the highlight of the trek is perhaps the “side trip.” On the way down, there is an option to visit the Nagpatong Rock – a massive, distinct butte towering over the forest. It’s one of the most photographed features of Masungki, and the primary reason why hikers go here. In fact, the rock formation featured prominently in a recent local blockbuster: Antoinette Jadaones’ “Love You to the Stars and Back” starring teen heartthrobs Joshua Garcia and Julia Baretto.
There are jeepneys and commuter vans in Starmall Mandaluyong, Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, and Farmer’s Cubao bound for Tanay.
At the town proper, head over to the PUV (public utility vehicle) terminal and take a jeepney to Sampaloc.
Get off at the junction where you can either take a jeepney bound for Cogeo or charter a tricycle. Your destination is Brgy. Cuyambay. Here, there are motorcycles that will take you to the jump-off. Alternatively, you may take a jeep or van to Cogeo and alight at Gate 2. From tahere, walk towards the jeepney terminal where you may get on one bound for Sampaloc. Alight at Brgy. Cuyambay.
By CELINE REYES
Photos by DENNIS MURILLO