Watch the video for the complete Nagpatong Rock Formation dayhike experience (Available in 4k).
Last week, I decided to go see some greens and enjoy a cool breeze after realising that I have been chained to my desk for quite some time now. We're going on a dayhike! We left the house at half past two in the morning and was back around six in the evening on the same day, but it was a great adventure nonetheless. I won't mention anymore how I screwed up in a project the night before we left, leaving me sleepless for a couple of days before going on with the hike. Fortunately I was able to get some rest in the van along the way though, so I managed just fine.
Call time is at 3 AM. We meet in one of Makati City's best vegan havens, Juicesabel, where owner and Vegans ROAM PH organiser, Isabel Lanas gathers the participants. This is a well-organised trip, meaning we will be commuting via rented vans and not backpacker-style using public transport. Each person paid a fee which included transport, registration, hike guide fees, and of course, the breakfast and lunch meals from Juicesabel. I did not count it personally, but they were saying we were 34 hikers all in all.
Ok, I'm gonna have to remind myself to watch the time next time I try to do a blog like this, but we got to the Cuyamay Branggay Hall pretty early to register for the hike. I'd say it was about early six-ish in the morning, just around sunrise. I was a little surprised though that there were other groups in there already when we arrived. I did not realize Nagpatong Rock is quite famous already.
We had Juicesabel's yummy, huge ass, signature, vegan burger for breakfast while we waited and then we took a little time to get the participants briefed and acquainted; a bit of group photo ops afterwards, and we're back to the vans, off to the Nagpatong trail jump off.
The Nagpatong trail is indeed a minor hike just as described in the promos I saw for this trip. It's quite short and easy even for a heavy guy like me. I'd say it's just about five to seven kilometers tops long from the jump off to the base of Nagpatong Rock itself, but I may be wrong. It is not without challenges specially for beginners, but it is not something a healthy person cannot overcome.
The two parts of the hike helps too. For the first two to three kilometers, you walk to a descending slope going into a beautiful valley where a pit stop is located. It isn't hard at all. Just a relaxed trek on a typical mountain trail.
From the pit stop, it all goes uphill for the second part. The trail becomes a lot more rockier as well, but again, still very manageable as long as you're careful. It might be harder when it's raining and muddy, but I suppose that would also just make it more fun if you're that type of person. If it helps to know, there are also a lot of good spots for you to stop if you ever need a breather.
After about two kilometers of climbing, you get to a second pit stop at the top of the hill. The actual rock is only about five minutes from here. I'm kind of pissed I wasn't able to get a footage of this stop, because I find it to be a very amusing place. A guy (or maybe the baranggay) has found a business opportunity in it and installed small cottages in the area. He also has a little store in there and a nasty little comfort room with a toilet in it. I don't know about you, but there's something funny and weird about a dirty little toilet, right beside a makeshift Family Mart, made of wilted coconut leaves and basically firewood in the middle of the freaking jungle. It is a crazy something I would come up with for my Pinoy Passenger comic strips, and it's real.
The guy charges 50 pesos per group if you want to sit on his cottages while waiting for your turn to get to the rock. He has some snacks, bottled water and fresh buko in his little store. Personally, I think he could charge a little bit more for what he's selling them for considering the work he has to do to take those goods up there, but he does charge 15 pesos for a piss in his nasty little toilet with practically no door, and double that if you're going for number 2!
From the second pit stop, we walked to the base of the Nagpatong Rock itself. Again we were greeted by the other groups that came before us. The long wait for our turn to get up the rock has got to be the worst part of the trip. Nagpatong has become popular enough to get flooded with tourists, especially on the weekends. Traffic going up and down the rock can only go one person at a time. Factor in the scaredy cats who take a much longer time making the pass, and that heavily slows everything down. We literally waited for hours for our turn to climb, and since we're in the middle of the jungle, there isn't a lot of good places to sit and wait in there. Those rocks weren't exactly butt-friendly.
But then, the excitement comes back when it's finally our turn to get up! Over the years, the local government had taken steps to make the climb to Nagpatong Rock safer and easier. I saw older blog posts about it with people having to climb trees to get to the top. Now, they have ladders, ropes and guides along the way to instruct climbers on their every step —and I mean literally every step. For this, I'd say climbing the otherwise dangerous Nagpatong, is very close to being 100% safe.
The most nerve-wracking part of the climb has got to be the pass where you'd have to literally scale the rock hanging by its edge, with very little footing and just a rope to hold on. The guides refer to this as the "buwis-buhay" segment. If I didn't have the guides to coach me exactly what I needed to do, there's fairly good chance I would have fallen on my first attempt. Considering the more or less, sixty-foot drop into solid granite, I highly doubt I'd get a second chance to redeem myself.
There's a small landing after"buwis-buhay". It is good to stop a while here to take in some of the view. From there, the final push to the summit is next.
Top of the Rock
First of all, it is always glorious to reach the summit in every climb. The Tanay forests are still amazing with little signs of deforestation. You can also see other large stone formations similar to the Nagpatong Rock, scattered and breaking the sea of greens on where they stand. A few high voltage power lines can be seen though, but they are can be easily ignored.
It was also very windy when we got there and the Amihan breeze was chilly and great. I wouldn't mind wearing a jacket in there. Some of the guys didn't like it, but I did.
One thing I have to mention though is my amusement and slight disappointment in finding the top of the rock almost fully covered with people. Instantly I was reminded of those rock nesting birds I see on National Geographic. But that was on me. I kept this silly idea that the top of the rock will be all for ourselves when we get there even after seeing all of those visitors before us. Of course it wasn't. What's worse is that the Nagpatong summit isn't really the most comfortable place to sit and wait. The top is not flat at all. It is actually steep and the rocks are jagged and very sharp. But i don't think it would be so bad if there weren't so many people in there, and you're not forced to stay and wait.
It is disappointing to not see the top as it naturally looks without all the people, but that's alright. The view and experience is still amazing. Check out my recommendations later on how to get the most of Nagpatong if you're planning to go.
We waited for another hour or so for the previous groups to get their photos taken in the summit, and then it was finally our turn. One of our guides has one of our cameras and he is on top of another rock formation in front of the main Nagpatong Rock. That is how these photos are possible.
This part is what this trip is all about —an epic photo op!
Our trip to Nagpatong was definitely a fantastic experience. I highly recommend it for your squad's next trip. But here are some tips I would give to make it more enjoyable, based on my experience and conversations with the guides.
1. GO ON A WEEKDAY. That's in all caps because that is they key for you to appreciate the place to the fullest. Logic would tell, less tourists means less waiting time, less crowd, and more nature and more time to appreciate Nagpatong. The guides confirms less or even no visitors during weekdays.
2. OR come in REALLY early. If you have no choice but to go on a weekend, get to the registration around 5 AM or maybe even earlier. That way, you be first in line and won't have to wait for other groups to finish.
2. Go in small groups. I think five to ten people is good. A large group is fun, but it slows down things when you get to the rock. Unless you're lucky to have no other groups around.
3. Pack light. Just water, cameras and maybe a first aid kit.
4. Sandals is good enough. In case you're a novice like me, wondering what to wear. As a guy who doesn't hike and doesn't have much hiking stuff, I wore my Nike sneakers. It was not the best choice I made that day, but I got out fine.
5. Wear gloves. Sharp rocks in the trail and specially on the summit.
6. Tip the guides on top of their fees if you can, and treat them nice. They don't make much and they do take good care of you.
The Nagpatong Rock Formation dayhike is an excellent trail for those who wish to start hiking regularly. It has it all; a moderate trek, a challenging but non-treacherous climb, a trail length that isn't too long nor too short, and a highly rewarding destination at the peak of the Nagpatong. You don't need to be in peak physical condition to do this. I'm actually very looking forward for my next hike. I didn't realize there's something about going into the rainforest that I missed.
Again, don't go in a weekend unless you want your experience to be similar to an SM 3-Day Sale in the middle of the jungle. In any case, the Nagpatong dayhike is one of the best ways you can spend a free day, considering the thrills, rewards, and minimal expenses.
Now, go book that trip and watch your step as you tread.