My first hike was when I was six years old. My Dad introduced me and my three elder brothers to hiking. We went on a trek to Majayjay Falls [in Laguna]. It was muddy, messy, pure madness, and miserable, but when we reached the waterfalls with mist all over the place, I was struck by its beauty. We swam in its pool, ate good food, and enjoyed the night sky with the sound of waterfalls putting us to sleep. I fell in love with nature then. This trek was followed by climbing mountains around the Philippines including Mt. Apo, Mt. Pulag, Mt.Mayon, Mt. Halcon and Mt. Guiting-Guiting. When I turned 11 we stopped hiking, concentrated on school and explored other activities.
As soon as I started college I joined the San Beda Mountaineering Society. The joy I experienced when I started at a young age was rekindled and I felt the kid inside me yearning for the outdoors.
One of my most memorable hikes was in the Visayas when I was 20. It was a 10-day journey around the Visayas covering Bacolod, Dumaguete, Iloilo and Antique. In those 10 days, we were able to hike Mt. Kanlaon, the highest mountain in the Visayas located in Bacolod; Mt. Talinis, the highest mountain in Dumaguete; Pan de Azukar, an island mountain in Ilolo; Mt. Madjaas, the highest mountain in Antique and the whole of Panay.
I would say the warmth and genuine cheerfulness of Filipinos you encounter on your climbs make the biggest difference between climbing in the Philippines and other countries.
My favorite local mountains...
Mt. Kanlaon in Negros. Trekking this volcano makes me feel like I'm in a different planet. There are no life forms (no insects, no trees), just shattered rocks. [Being] at the summit and seeing the mouth of the crater right in front of you feels unreal.
Mt. Hilong-Hilong in Agusan del Norte makes you feel like you’re a dwarf in an enchanted forest. In some parts of the trail you'll need you to bend down to walk under the roots of enormous trees. Some trees are completely covered by thick green moss. You'll hear bird calls and insects and feel so relaxed inside the forest.
Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Romblon is all about sharp and jagged terrain with steep cliffs on both sides and a challenging hike.
Sultan Peak in Palawan has rich flora and fauna. This is where we saw pitcher plants as big as my arm andn where birds would fly near us, curiously eyeing us. For three days we swam in rivers, waterfalls and a lake.
Mt. Pulag in Benguet is the place to see the sunrise above the clouds. The weather is cold and relaxing. The pine trees, the mossy forest and the grassland make the whole hike extra beautiful.
My tips for beginner mountaineers and hikers...
Research and plan ahead. Before hiking, research about mountain specifics such as trek distance, weather forecast, practices of locals, etc.
Carry trail food that includes sugar, sodium and potassium such as dried fruits, raisins and sweet potato for quick energy utilization.
Wear shoes that are comfortable and provide proper traction.
Respect the mountain and the people you’ll meet.
Make sure you are properly equipped and ready. Start small and short. Go for the minor hikes first for you to have a feel of hiking. Smile and enjoy!
My top Philippine destinations are...Batad-Banaue, Biri rock formations in Northern Samar, Baler in Aurora for surfing, and Culion in Palawan.
[I also enjoy] surfing, football, basketball, rock climbing, biking, diving. Everything connected with the outdoors and nature!
About our insider
Coby Sarreal, 27, is a mountaineer and one of the co-founders of Trail Adventours. Follow his adventures on Instagram and Facebook. For the rest of the year, he's off to Fuji, Mt. Elbrus in Russia, Turkey, Indonesia and Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, plus local treks in Tawi-Tawi, Bukidnon and other mountains around the country. Sarreal hopes to be able to complete all of the Seven Summits and the North and South poles as well as build the best Outdoor Adventure Company in Southeast Asia.
Cover photo courtesy of Coby Sarreal.
Published August 2016