Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tayak Hill (560+ MASL), Bunga Falls (15+ meters) and Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery (Laguna)

At the summit of Tayak Hill, Mt. Cristobal's slopes and cloud-covered summit in the background

Tayak Hill, named after the tayak grass growing on its slopes stands at around 560+ MASL, making it higher than most of the mountains of the Wawa-Mascap area in Montalban. Located in the municipality of Rizal in Laguna, the jump-off is easily accessible from San Pablo via jeepneys that ply the route to Nagcarlan and Liliw. As a favorite hiking destination for both local residents and tourists, the trail leading to the hill is now paved in concrete all the way to Tayak Adventure, Nature and Wildlife Park, making it possible to drive all the way to the base of the hill. Conveniently located between San Pablo City and Nagcarlan, hikers can add several sidetrips to the hike such as a visit to the Lakes of San Pablo, Bunga Falls and the Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan.

Pinoy Mountaineer lists the following specs for Tayak Hill: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1; Days required / Hours to summit: Half day / 1.5- 2 hours; Features: Panoramic view of the Southern Tagalog mountains and the lakes of San Pablo; LLA: 14.0688 N 121.420 E (approx); 560+ MASL (features part added).

Tayak Hill viewed from the trail

Arriving at the jump-off right across Rizal Elementary School around 6:30 AM, I immediately started the hike. The trail to Tayak Hill runs the lenght of Opulencia Street, a concrete-paved street right across the school from it's intersection with the Nagcarlan-Rizal Road all the way to the base of Tayak Hill. If you don't want to walk the 6+ kilometer trail to the base of the hill, there are several tricycles in the area that you can rent to bring you to the Tayak Adventure, Nature and Wildlife Park.

Rizal Elementary School

Street right across the school, jump-off to Tayak Hill

The trail passes through residential areas and then into forested parts. As the trail goes on, houses lining the street becomes less and less as the forest becomes thicker. Several portions of the trail also pass through plantations and farms. The trail is mostly lined with trees affording enough shade. As the rainy season has already started, I experienced several instances of moderate to heavy rains when I hiked Tayak Hill, slowing my progress. As the trail runs on a road, hikers should also be wary since there are a lot of blind curves along the way and speeding vehicles could appear at any moment. The greater part of the trail is on mostly flat ground, with very gradual ascent almost unnoticeable. The trail becomes markedly steeper on the final couple kilometers.

Passing by Tala Resort and Restaurant, a few minutes into the hike

Caught in a heavy downpour

After the rain breaks

Expect the path to get steeper beyond this point

Fork in the trail, just follow the arrow

The concrete road ends a few meters away from the entrance of Tayak Adventure, Nature and Wildlife Park. I reached the park around 8:10 AM. Entering the park, I was warmly greeted by the park manager. Registration is at the base of the hill before the concrete flight of stairs. The park manager explains the 930 steps to the hilltop as well as future improvements planned for Tayak Hill. After a few minutes of walking up the concrete flight of stairs, I reached the summit of Tayak Hill. After resting for a few minutes, I snapped a few photos. The hill was mostly empty except for a couple of other visitors. The hilltop was quite peaceful, perfect for relaxation, with the slopes and peak of Mt. Cristobal looming in the background.

Welcome signage and Registration Area

Stairway to the summit

At the summit of Tayak Hill, Mt. Cristobal's cloud-smothered slopes in the background

The summit offers fantastic views of the mountains of Laguna and Quezon, as well as portions of Rizal province. The slopes of Mt. Cristobal dominates the view on the southern part while the northern side offers a sweeping view of Laguna. Mt. Makiling, Mts. Kalisungan and Atimla as well as the smaller Mt. Prinza, Mt. Obabis/Imoc Hill and Mt. Mabilog are clearly seen of the summit. Mt. Sembrano in Jalajala peninsula and Mt. Tagapo in Talim Island in Rizal can also be seen. Several of the Lakes of San Pablo are also visible from the vantage point. After resting, snapping some photos and enjoying my snacks and the view, I started the descent around 9:45 AM, just as another light downpour started.

The cross at the summit of Tayak Hill

Cloud-covered Mt. Makiling

Mt. Prinza, Mt. Obabis/Imoc Hill, Mts. Kalisungan and Atimla, Mt. Mabilog and a few of the Lakes of San Pablo

Across Laguna de Bay, Talim Island and parts of Jalajala Peninsula, Mts Tagapo and Sembrano hidden in clouds

Enjoying the view

Rainclouds descending on the summit

Trekking back, I reached Rizal Elementary School at around 11:15 AM. Next on my itinerary is Bunga Falls, named after the bunga tree (Areca catechu) which used to grow abundantly around the falls. Catching a ride to the town of Nagcarlan, the jeep passed by the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. Since it is quite near the municipal hall where I rented a tricycle to Bunga Falls, I decided to add it as another side trip. The tricycle ride to Bunga Falls is just around 10 minutes from the town proper. After the short trike ride, I paid the entrance fee to Bunga Falls and started the short descent to the catch basin. As it was a weekday, there were just a few visitors at the falls.

Bunga Falls cascade and catch basin

Dipping in the waters of the falls

Swimming in the catch basin

After snapping some photos, enjoying the cool water and eating my packed lunch, I started the walk back to the entrance. On my way to the falls, the tricycle driver tells me catching a ride back to town can be difficult and I might have to walk back to the main road to catch a ride. Luckily on my way out, there was a group of visitors just getting off a tricycle. I was able to catch a ride back to town easily. Back on the town proper, I walked a few minutes to reach the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. There was no one on the registration area, so I just scribbled my name on the logbook and proceeded to enter. I read somewhere there are no fees collected anyway.

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

Historical Marker

Capilla del Santo Sepulcro

The Crypt

Tombs in the crypt

After snapping a few photos and walking around the cemetery grounds, I walked back to the road to catch a ride back to San Pablo and from there back to Manila. Touring Laguna with its many and varied attractions is great way to spend the day without being too far from Manila and spending too much.

Useful Information:

Trail Map: (For illustrative purposes only; may not correspond to exact coordinates)
Trail to Tayak Hill

Actual Itinerary:
4:05 AM - Departure from LRT Buendia to SM San Pablo
5:20 AM - Arrival at SM San Pablo, jeep ride to Bayan
5:30 AM - Arrival at San Pablo city proper, quick breakfast
6:00 AM - Jeep ride to Ride to Rizal
6:30 AM - Arrival at Rizal Elementary School, start trek
8:15 AM - Arrival at Tayak Adventure, Nature and Wildlife Park, register
8:30 AM - Summit of Tayak Hill, rest, snacks, photo ops
9:45 AM - Start descent
11:10 AM - Back at Rizal Elementary School, ride jeep to Nagcarlan
11:30 AM - Arrival at Municipal Hall, look for tricycle, ride to Bunga Falls
11:45 AM -  Arrival at Bunga Falls, rest, lunch, swim, photo ops
1:00 PM - Departure from Bunga Falls, ride tricycle back to Municipal Hall
1:15 PM - Back at the Municipal Hall, visit Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
1:35 PM - Ride back to San Pablo
2:15 PM - Back at San Pablo, ride jeep to SM San Pablo
3:05 PM - Bus ride back to Manila

Mandatory Fees: (as of June 2017, prices subject to change without notice)
Entrance Fee at Tayak Adventure, Nature and Wildlife Park - Php. 30.00 (There was supposed to be a Php. 10.00 Environmental Fee but I was just charged Php. 30.00 instead of Php. 40.00, no complaints from me!)
Entrance Fee at Bunga Falls - Php. 5.00
Optional: Cottage with tables rental - Php. 250.00, rubber inner tube (flotation device) rental - Php. 40.00 (I did not rent any of these)

How to get there: (Fares as of June 2017, prices subject to change without notice)
To Tayak Hill jump-off - From LRT Buendia, ride any bus bound for Lucena and get off at SM San Pablo (Php. 127.00). Ride a jeep to San Pablo city proper (Php. 8.00). At the city proper walk to the fire station to catch a jeepney bound to Nagcarlan and Liliw and get off at Rizal Elementary School (Php. 17.00). Right across the school is the paved road leading to Tayak Hill.

To Bunga Falls and Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery - Ride a jeepney bound for Nagcarlan (same route as above) from Rizal Elementary School and get off at the Municipal Hall (Php. 15.00). Ride a tricycle to Bunga Falls (Php. 20.00 per person or Php. 80.00 special trip). From the Municipal Hall, just walk a few meters to the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery.

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