Category Archives: Trails

Loosing Maarat

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Timberland- the former Maarat

We went to Maarat (Timberland) last Sunday as I have some relatives whom I am introducing to trail riding. As we all know, Maarat is our Mt. Tam- the center of Philippine mountain biking. It was a few years ago when I last went there and though there have been a lot of changes even then, it was only on this trip that I came into realization that some of the trails we have ridden are rapidly disappearing- giving way to development. In the case of Maarat, it is still good to know that the property owner has embraced cycling and has still incorporated some trails within the development, but it is still far off from the way it was used to be and there is also no guarantee that it will remain as is- as the power of commerce will prevail once the development plan is given the go signal. We are uncertain until when the good things will last.

Starting with our way to Maarat (by the way, it was Maarat then prior to the development of Timberland and I think it is now popularly known simply as Timberland), as I now have the luxury of using Waze to navigate my way from Marcos Hi-way to Maarat, I was directed to pass through what seems to be the former AFP Trail. When I talk about this trail to the newbies, I was amazed nobody really know this place anymore as I guess this was developed (paved) much earlier on and was already out of the lists of the destinations for mountain biking a long time ago.

Going back to Maarat- here are some observations I had comparing it from  yesteryear’s:

  • The paved portion has now creeped all the way to the former junction to the Roxas-Antenna Area. Before the rough roads starts at the now gate of Timerland. Then it advanced to the Timberland Resort. One of these days, this main route called “Basic” will be fully paved.
  • Most of the existing trails are newly built specific to riding. More of sections of trails rather than one continuous system. Its more of a bike park than a natural trail. Gone are the routes called Roxas, Yes-No, Ka Vergel and other places I have also forgotten now.
  • From the backdoor (coming from Antipolo), the alternate road that goes to Roxas is already blocked and is no longer passable.
  • During the earlier days- the destination on the Antipolo side is a store we call Mountain Dew which was eventually replaced by Giant after some boycott movement within the cycling community due to an alleged mobile phone theft by the store. Then there was Pestano and now there is Sandugo.
  • The alternate wall- the road to the left prior to the steep ascent to the wall  (shot-gun?- it was non existing on our heydays) is now also paved.
  • And before there was Aling Tina’s store (if you don’t like Tropical Hut (which is the very first stop-over-jump-off) or Jolibee or later on- Chowking) and now some more decent cafes and a bike store- i.e. All Terra sprouted along the road prior to the wall. The left side, which was the former Divine Mercy Track where the cross country races are held are now dotted with houses. The “tambays” on these cafes on a busy weekend shows the growing social dimension (or status?) of cycling whether its good or bad.
  • And of course- the SUVs and trucks lining up the road on a busy weekend- in contrast to our heydays- wherein even if we have cars, we didn’t even consider bringing cars on a bike ride. We rode from home to trail head, do our adventure, then ride back home again. Hope this is not a setback for bike-environmental advocates (the increased carbon footprint of riding a bike).

Most biking destination in the Philippines are private property. The public ones are usually not intended/designed for riding. In the US some mountain bike groups has even raised money to buy properties to ensure the trails will remain open but that is something impossible here. For private lands- we are at the mercy of the owners. For public- we need further advocacy to share the park, create bike specific trails and make it an official mountain biking destination.

Similar to any developments, the question of whether progress is better is always debatable. Looking at the bright side- this Maarat may have inspired newbies and started people into cycling. But for those who have ridden this in its earlier days, there is something missing riding it nowadays- the feeling of adventure and exploration. Of being close to nature. So the newbies who will eventually graduate riding Maarat- you better drive farther down the road to experience the exhilarating experience of real mountain biking.

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(L-R) My brother-in-law- Dondon Roan, and his cousin Paul Maralit. Me in the foreground.

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Globe Cordillera Challenge 6

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Me, Jon and Jerry

In the early heydays of local mountain biking, and in support to the known fact that the Cordilleras is the best mountain biking destination in the country- we have this Baguio-Sagada race held annually (when Halsema was still rough roads) until it eventually died down. Nowadays, a newer and better race took over to further explore the Cordilleras- the Globe Cordillera Challenge. The Globe Cordillera Challenge, now in its sixth edition not only promotes the location by having new routes each year- but has a noble outreach program that benefits from the race- the Cordillera Conservation Trust. There is the Epic (50+kms) and a Mini-Epic (28+km) route. I and Jon Lloyd who flew all the way from Australia joined the Epic while Jerry Escosio and Paul Paz joined the mini Epic challenge.

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My place…

Overall, it was an awesome ride- exhilarating downhills and equally back breaking climbs. Though I miserably finished 105/167 at 7 hrs; having no real climb training from the past couple of months and the drinking the night before (excuses, excuses) forcing me to walk a lot of section (something I don’t usually do so it was  a bit humiliating), it was all still worth it and all the more gave me resolve to try again next year- this time with proper preparation.

The Globe Cordillera Challenge is one of the best mountain biking event in the Philippines to date so this is a highly recommended activity for off road bike enthusiast out there.

The Route:

GCCmap

Video Taken by Jon:

Making Makiling

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Makiling Forest

The Mt. Makiling Rainforest Park was one of the older mountain biking destination. I remember here is where I first saw a mountain bike in action sometime 1996. Shockingly one of the rider crashed at one tight bend and I remember how he was panicking as he was more concerned if he got any cuts or scratches on his face. So when we started riding mountain bikes, this was one of our first exploration destination.

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Aguila Base

The route being used by riders is the same road that goes 3/4 to the summit; the same road used by hikers known as the Makiling UPLB Trail. But since its wide, there are no issues with trail sharing but on heavy traffic days for hikers like Holy Week, bikers are not allowed so it would also be better to check before going there. The road that is “bikeable” is around 5+ kilometers long up to an area known as Aguila Base.  Its an uphill road and turning back to the jump-off would give you a 5+ km downhill for a total of 11+ kilometers. 1 Kilometer of the road is already paved and the rest are made of loose dirt and rocks so going down will be a bit shaky.

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Registration Booth

Other option within this ride is to do a trail ride to the mud springs. Another one is to start the ride from outside Los Banos to further increase the milage. You can either take the Jamboree Road or the main road from UPLB. There is a registration booth where you need to register and pay 10 Php per person.

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Mount Makiling

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Makiling Trail

Video of the trail courtesy of Jon Lloyd. (Riders- Jon Lloyd, Ronald Millevo and me).

Filinvest Trail

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All trails starts/ ends from the side walk.

The Filinvest Trails are short trails (less than 2 kilometers per section) on existing vacant lots within the Filinvest Commercial Center in Alabang. This is a popular destination by southern bikers. Currently there are 4 sections located on separate blocks so you will need to cross streets to go between trails. But no need to worry as the place is bike friendly and bikes are given courtesy and respect by Filinvest security and traffic personnel. This trail is a good start for newbies though some sections may be “too technical” for newbies so better have them scout first before doing a quick run. Filinvest trail is a good quick getaway for people living within the vicinity. For those coming from farther places, the short course may be disappointing and not worth the trip.

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The 4 sections of the Filinvest Trail

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The actual areal shot.

To go to the place, take SLEX and exit at Filinvest. You can park at the available parking lots within the Filinvest/ Festival Mall area. It’s easy to spot the trail especially during weekends as there are a lot of riders using the trail. The trails are also properly marked by signage courtesy of Filinvest and ROX. We just hope that the trails would become permanent as one section (there were 5 sections originally) has already succumbed to the call of progress. In fact it may be a good idea for future subdivision developers to incorporate bike trails within their developments. Of course it will come if we demand it- we just need to voice it out.

Heroes Trail

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The Trail

Bayani2This is one of the popular mini trail (“park”) in the heart of the Metropolis and one of the three located inside a military camp, the others being the Aguinaldo Trail (see previous post on this) while the other one is also inside Fort Bonifacio known as the Army Trail. The Heroes Trail is smaller than the Army Trail as it is only around 3 Kilometers in total length compared to the 6 kilometers for the Army Trail. The trail is good for beginners as the technicality is ideal for beginners. But for advance riders, nothing is lost as doing this round multiple times would be enough challenge to hone one’s skills.

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Heroes Trail

Bayani3The park is accessible from Bayani Road near Libingan ng mga Bayani and Heritage Park. The park is open from 5:30 AM to 5 PM with a minimal fee of 50 Php (though the registration booth is sometimes only manned from morning till early afternoon and if there is nobody there in the late afternoon, you can still do you runs for free). The registration booth also sells refreshments and light snacks.  There are ample parking in the area so no problems bringing your car with you.

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(L-R) Ronald Millevo, Ega Escosio, Al Jumarang, Mau Romarate, Me, Cha Jaddie, Vlad Padilla and Jay Ortigero

For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765 

Puray

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River Crossings (by Ronald Millevo)

Puray is one of the classic off road epic destinations. It is located near (sometimes crosses with) the other popular off road destinations of the Rodriguez  (Montalban)-Bulacan-San Mateo mountain biking trails.

It has been a long time since we last rode this area but the thrill is still there. Looking at the map below, the Puray route is actually a loop (or linear if you will only choose one route). The other one passes through rivers (15+ crossings to my count), while the other one is a back breaking climb then a steep and loose descent.

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The downhill part (by Ronald Millevo)

The loose dry mud and the river crossing means you need a wider tire with enough knobs for traction. This is one (of the few) destination where a 29 will definitely have an advantage.  Similarly, the steep descent on powdery loose soil means you have to be careful in doing your downhill runs. On another note- this means on a rainy day, these loose s0il becomes one hell of a muddy trail.

Allot an entire day to do this ride. You may park you vehicles anywhere in San Mateo or Rodriguez or even further at Avilon Zoo Area. The usual end point is a small waterfalls. There are stores on that area who can prepare your lunch but for those who are choosy, just bring your packed lunch with you as there are limited types of food to order.

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MMS Bikers

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The end destination- not as grand as expected. Maybe in the rainy season.

Waiting for Lunch

Waiting for Lunch

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Puray Route

For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765 

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Survivor Caramoan

SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN - FANS VS. FAVORITES

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Caramoan is often included on the top ten list of best mountain biking destination in the country- but of course, for those who have been to the place and since only a few have done this, this status is a bit questionable.

Caramoan

This was the original plan. Note of the Loop from Caramoan. EZ Map shows there is a road from Garchitorena to Tinimbac for a bigger loop. Maybe there is- for the more adventurous but for mortals- a linear from Lagonoy to Presentacion to Caramoan and back would be enough.

Caramoan is an overnight sensation after it has been chosen by a handful of Survivor episodes from different countries like Israel, Bulgaria, Serbia, America, Sweden, French and Indian editions of the Franchise.  The popular destination is very similar to Coron, islets of limestone karst simlar to that of world famous Halong Bay of Vietnam.  This one though seems more remote and rustic compared to Coron. This may be attributed to the fact that it is more difficult to access the place, i.e. a 2 hour boat ride from San Jose Camarines Sur although lately it is seems more viable and accessible via Virac Catanduanes. When we first explored the place sometime 2010, I have already wondered how come the place is not accessible via land transportation from Naga. Are roads nonexistence or is it just inconvenient to commute by land? Apparently there are existing rough roads to Caramoan and that became our starting point to find out for ourselves how this route would fare as a mountain biking destination.

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The descent to Kinahulugan.

Internet was not that useful as there are close to no information on travelling to Caramoan by land. Although there are some mentions of riding to the place (both bicycle and motorcycle), the details are blurry it’s either they are reluctant to share the information or the trip didn’t really happened. So armed with very little information, we set out the Halloween break of 2013 to explore this promising mountain biking destination. With me were Dindo Narciso, the usual companion and Lea Latayan- our athlete amazon replacing Deo Cas who was unavailable this time as our usual bike-explore buddies plus our SAG driver Mang Lando (my daughter’s school bus driver who is very much interested to explore new places). We met at around dinner time at Angono Rizal and had some drinks before heading off- sort of a send off party or sort of  a pre-plane ride ceremony to ensure falling asleep during the trip. I did not as I don’t fall asleep when in any form of moving vehicles even in a 16 hour long haul to the US so I will b e riding the next day without any sleep. This is the reason why I also prefer spending a day onsite before any long ride. Anyways- armed with an unreliable Bicol map from the E-Z map collection, we traveled to Naga that night expecting to arrive at Naga by early morning to start

The Missing Disc

The Missing Disc

our adventure. The original plan was to have our SAG vehicle go with us only up to Goa and stay there while we continue on with the ride to Caramoan expecting that the vehicle will not make it to Caramoan so better leave it at Goa. Then we planed to spend the night at Caramoan and maybe a day there exploring before heading back to Goa to meet our SAG and then to Naga to complete the loop before going back to Manila. We arrived at Naga by 7 AM and as custom, we had our breakfast at Biggs- the regional fast food delight. We were not that hungry though after finding out that there is a Mc Donalds along the way at Gumaca Quezon and its open 24 hours.

Mode of Transport

Mode of Transport

Thinking that there are more information as we get near the place- we asked several people at Naga regarding going to Caramoan- how far it is, the road condition and if we can take the SAG with us. All answers were positive but a bit sketchy- that we can bike the place in a day (not sure how long) and we can take the SAG with us (as if they have driven there). The most helpful information was when the ever helpful security guard of Biggs gave me a calling card of a tour operator whom I called to verify the information I had. The same guard provided us tools when we were fixing the disc brake of Dindo that warped after we got bumped from behind by a drunk driver on our way to Naga. There were no scratches on the truck or even the bikes, only the warped disc brake- a bit odd. We were not able to fix it so we decided to remove Dindo’s front disc brake- hardcore !

We rode from Naga to Pili then to Ocampo and had a short break at Ocampo then proceeded to Goa where we had our lunch at around 11 AM. Since we were already 100% sure that our SAG will go with us to Caramoan, the question now was more on the distance- if we can make it to Caramoan in a day. And mostly we were told that we can do it before sun down- roughly. Lagonoy was the last town before entering the Caramoan Peninsula and were we expect to close our Caramoan Loop. We already rode 50 kms from Naga to Lagonoy and the next town, Presentacion was around 32 kilometers from Lagonoy. We got excited and felt it’s was really doable. Assuming that from Presentacion to Caramoan will be lesser or around the same distance based on map proportions.

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Gota Village

The ride from Lagonoy to Presentacion was fun and exciting with great views and great roads. Although it’s around 70+% paved, the remaining unpaved was really muddy (maybe more manageable during the summer months when the roads are dry). The road was going around the coast of the peninsula with rivers and mountainscapes and the grade was pleasant- rolling with just the right challenge to spin the bike. I remembered a spot where our boat ride took us during our first visit to Caramoan few years ago- Kinahulugan Falls so when we reached it, we had a few minutes break to see the falls. As we near Presentacion, we were already tired as the slopes became steeper. We reached Presentacion at around 3:00 PM. Our SAG by the way went ahead towards Caramoan due to mis-communications.

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Caramoan

It was in Presentacion that we found out that Caramoan is still far. Though the villagers, most of whom haven’t been to Caramoan despite it’s only a neighboring town (but on the other side of the mountain), were not in agreement how far Caramoan is, they all agreed that we will not make it before sunset. What made the decision to ride the SAG from Presentacion to Caramoan easier is when they told us its not safe to travel those roads at night time- as rebels/insurgents are still present in this part of the country. We called our SAG and asked him to go back and fetch us. While waiting, we searched for hot foods and cold beers and it was a bit challenging to find one at that place. The ride from Presentacion to Caramoan took us 3 hours over rough road, muddy roads that seems not passable but thank God, our Sag was able to pass those obstacles. From this portion, I would say it’s the opposite with 60-70% unpaved portions.  All in all the distance from Presentacion to Caramoan was 44 kilometers. It’s a mountain pass wherein you cross the backbone mountain of the Caramoan Peninsula. So the total ride from Naga to Caramoan will be around 125 kilometers. We agreed that in doing this ride- it’s better to start at Lagonoy and ride to Caramoan for a day with around 74 kilometers total distance. By the way, on our way back the other day, the travel time was half- 1.5 hours so I guess it’s easier to ride during the day. Also since construction of the road is continuing- we think that within 5 years’ time the entire route will be fully paved (which will include progress and less insurgents). Not sure if it’s an advantage as sometimes, the fun in doing mountain bike rides is from riding rough terrains and the value of adventure is increased by the inaccessibility of the place. We also found out that there is no route (or if there is its definitely worst) from Caramoan back to Lagonoy via Garchitorena- so our plans of doing a loop is not possible and the E-Z map is not accurate to show a road passing through Garchitorena and back to Lagonoy.

We spent a day in Caramoan. I would truly say, this is a wonderful reward at the end of the ride (in our case, we will no longer ride going back to Naga so this is our end point). But we actually didn’t explored the place (in my case, I have been here before), we just had some few walks but spent most of the day sitting in the beach drinking and food-tripping. The ambiance was wonderful we really enjoyed sitting there and at the end, our food bill was more than 10 times our accommodation bill- we either really enjoyed the ambiance or we were so drunk we kept ordering food or maybe both. So this explains why instead of loosing weight on these adventures- its the reverse. Who cares- good ride, good friends, good food and good drinks- that’s the life!

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At Biggs, me, Dindo Narciso and Lea Latayan

After the ride, I would also consider this loop a part of my top 10. Maybe not in the top 5- but surely within the top 10. The best thing in doing this is the reward of the beautiful place called Caramoan at the end or midpoint of your adventure ride. So planning for this ride- either you do it two days going and two days back from Naga to Caramoan vise-versa or a day from Lagonoy. You can actually spend a day at Lagonoy for rest before the ride since there are cheap places to stay at Lagonoy. The most important thing is- to spend a day or two at Caramoan. Staying at Gota Village (www.gotavillage.com) is not that expensive as the huts are rented for Php 1.2k per day only. The food is more expensive though so you can have your meals at Caramoan town proper.

PS.

When you ride this route and you had a girl with you, make sure she will ride behind the boys as you will get a lot of heckling from the children along the route. Thanks Lea for making us  a couple of sissies.

Map of the Trip

Goa- Caramoan

From Goa to Caramoan

Naga- Precentacion

From Naga to Goa

For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765 

Maarat

Maarat is currently the number one mountain biking destination in the Philippines. Despite big developments in the area the last 5 years, it made it more accessible thus more popular to weekend riders. This video records the entire basic or main trail from gate to gate (although reverse- from the Antipolo gate to San Mateo). There are currently developed trails being maintained by both the property owner- Timberland Heights and AllTerra cycling shop marked by different skill levels. Its also worth to note the road going to Timberland height is a popular destination for both road and MTB riders where the dreaded “Maarat Wall” is located. A steep incline but quite short so the suffering is calculated. We first explored this area circa 2001 and I tell you, lot has changed since then.

Apologize for the wrong orientation of the Video- just learning how to use the Countour Roam cam given to me by Robert Arevalo when I visited him at Washington DC this September.

La Mesa Watershed

The best mountain biking destination near the heart of Manila is no other than the La Mesa Watershed Eco-Park. We have been there even before it was opened for public riding. We have revisited it recently and definitely, we were impressed with how they developed and managed the park. Here is our ride:

There are more than 40kms of trail and the normal route usually goes around 20-25kms. But since there are quite a number of cris-crossing trails, its very easy to customize the trip thus its ideal for beginners and experts alike.

Most of the trails are thickly covered by trees and goes within a rain forest type of environment, though most of them are recent reforested lands. There are guides required per trip and the fee to ride the trail (including the guide) is 200 Php per person. There are ample parking, clean toilets and a bike wash service after the muddy ride. The only thing missing is a store so better bring enough foods and drinks. For beginners, there is a service pick-up truck that is used to rescue those who cant finish the trail.

To get there, turn right at the end of Regalado Hi-way- with SM Fairview to your left (take Quirino Hi-way; the road that goes to San Jose Bulacan). About 2 kilometers is long concrete wall with a gate visibly marked so its difficult to miss it.

Members of team were (L-R) Vince Rodriguez, Vince’s Guest, Jerry Escosio, Ega Escosio, Al Jumarang, Dell Soriao, Paul Paz and me. The ride was on June 3, 2012.

Here are the details of the trail:

La Mesa

La Mesa Trail

For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765 

Bakun Benguet- Future Awsome Destination

Here is a place I have trekked some time ago but revisited recently and did a survey of a possible future trip.

Here is a future ultimate extreme mountain bike experience. There are two options-

1. Park at Sinipsip, then ride to Bakun for an overnight stay and return to Sinipsip the next day. Its 34 kilometers of mountain off road.
2. Park at Acop toll gate, then ride or take a bus/jeep to Sinipsip. Ride to Bakun for an overnight stay. Then ride to Kibungan then Kiangan and then to Acop toll gate for the ride back home.

2013 maybe.

Bakun

Backun