The (de)Bourgeoin(ed) Manila


Intramuros! The old Manila. The original Manila. The Noble and Ever Loyal City…

– Nick Joaquin

Oh Manila! Not everyone may know the country Philippines, let alone its location in the globe, but I bet everyone knows Manila. Either you’ve already visited Manila, grew loving and hating it, or have planned to visit it, or you just simply heard it elsewhere and might have wished you get to visit it one day. The charm of Manila is its quaint architecture sinking within the modern urban slums. It’s a common knowledge that Manila is the catch basin not only of the floods flowing within Pasig River but also of every Filipino looking for an opportunity to escape from poverty.

Contrary to what we see now in the sprawling city, Manila used to be a gem in the orient sea. True to its name ‘Pearl of the Orient Sea’, Manila has been the destination of prominent Western families during 19th to early 20th century. British, Spanish, Dutch, German progenitors settle in the ports of Manila and along the banks of Pasig River founding their livelihood and businesses, some of those still exist up to this day.

My lowkey fanaticism to history and Filipiniana brought me to an interesting map. As I was browsing some maps online looking at any data that would help me visualize the extent of urbanization during Spanish era, I stumbled upon an old, yet very helpful map of great Manila inscribed 1898 as its year, that’s exactly 117 years ago.

manila_1898As I was fascinated with this map, I immediately thought what could I get with this image? I only thought of one goal; to visualize the extent of settlement in Manila in pre-War years.

Perhaps you might have randomly seen this map in a history website or shared article in social media. This map titled ‘Plano de Manila y Sus Araballes‘ from an anonymous author in 1898 (the portrait profile of the map is intended, you’ll know why later) illustrates the extent of built up areas and other land uses before Americans came in Manila. So what could be a good story for this map? So I thought of comparing the 1898 Manila Araballes to present highly-urbanized and dense Manila. I initially thought of juxtaposing them but it would be more dramatic if I simply overlay the old and the new the emphasize the glaring differences.

Though Manila is really difficult to love and appreciate, it has its own eccentric charm; the iconic gothic, baroque, or art-deco inspired Catholic church designs, the last remaining columns of bahay-na-bato structures which housed the old and nouveau riche families. The comparison will help current generation to understand the Manila by appreciating its built heritage, that they would not only know Manila as Quiapo church, or Intramuros and a sea of bystanders and hawkers.

The Product

The old map Plano de Manila y Sus Araballes overlaid in the modern map of majority of City of Manila creates an interesting story of visualizing the settlements which reflects the settlement in 1898.
landuseManila v26

The extent of built-up area in 1898 was recreated on the map. The land uses are residential, commercial, open spaces, military, and institutions. Simply put, all the non-orange colors were basically open field before the dawn of 20th century. While the orange-colored built-up areas are the oldest settlements that we can still feel today. We are lucky enough if we get to see houses completely preserved, untouched, and maintained within these old settlements.

From roughly 900 hectares* of built up area before 1900’s to what is now highly dense and completely occupied and urbanized, there should be a lot of Manila stories to catch up on. All else are either roads leading to the nearest district settlement or simply plain fields. Present-day San Andres, Santa Mesa, and Port Area were not named as such but were just part of its larger adjacent district – the former two new districts used to be an open field until 20th century when migration to suburbs began.

Imperial Manila won’t earn its reputation without its trophies and insignias during that time. It was the home to the most elite, powerful, and influential families. Not only their clans and treasures but also their casas and companias were located in Manila due to its proximity to port area.

Before Makati Dasma, Ayala Alabang, Corinthian Gardens, and all posh subdivisions flourished in Metro Manila, small districts in Manila used to be the its home. Imagine, this was the og!

landuseManila v25

These are just some of the notable families which resided in Manila. Most, if not, all of them have already left Manila during early 20th century to post World War II. What we have left are the ruins of famous architectures, some were restored by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, but some were destroyed during economic depression of the Philippines (1980’s).

Some notable details in the urbanization of Manila:

  1. Tutuban Rail Station opened in 1892 thereby facilitated trade and commerce of products from Manila to Dagupan
  2. Tondo was among the most populous towns even during that time
  3. Calle Sebastian (now R. Hidalgo St.) which housed the Genatos, Aranetas, current Prietos and Sunicos, and Calle Solano which were populated by the Eugsters, Roxas and Ayalas, were among the high class downtown streets
  4. Ermita and Malate followed with the bourgeoining trend when the Sy-Quias, Champourcins, and Zobel de Ayalas situated in the district
  5. Binondo was the the established Chinatown due to its necessity to establish a separate proximate to Intramuros apart from the parian where non-Catholic Chinese merchants were accommodated.

It is worth noting that there is an interesting trend in gradual outward spatial polar shift of population and migration during the 20th century. I’ll post an update upon completing a milestone in the study.

Fast forward to 2017, past Philippine-American War, World War I, World War II, Martial Law, economic recession, and countless hit or missed developments, what has been the busy street of business, trade, luxury, and lifestyle became a hodgepodge of everything that kills a city. Obviously, it is barely surviving to all ills of bad governance. Now, should it lead us to ponder, are we really lucky enough to have found all these historical treasures still alive therefore giving us a chance to revive it? Or is it otherwise, that we merely lost all the national treasures and what we have left are mostly ruins from the past?

*note: computation of built-up land area is based on the total land area of the digitized version of the Plano de Manilla y Sus Araballes through GIS.

de Gamoneda, F. J. (1898). Plano de Manila y sus Araballes. Retrieved May 2017, from WorldCat.
Memorable Manila Houses. (2006, November). Retrieved May 2017, from Remembrance of Things Awry.



Density Is Such A Not-So-Lonely Word


Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.

– Thomas Malthus

Most of us always have that love-hate relationship with Metro Manila. Inasmuch as we hate the perennial traffic, flooding, and congestion, if you happen to live in the Metro, chances are, you’ll miss them all. Metro Manila is becoming denser as years progress. As a matter of fact, it is 62 times denser than the national average (PSA, 2012). Yeah as if it’s still a surprise to anyone. In 2015, 12.8 million strong sharing the same air, land, road, water table, and that’s exclusive of the tourists, visitors, and transients visiting the big Metro. Metro Manila is almost the size of Chad, an African country. It is double the size of Denmark. While 12.8 million people is quite a story, congestion of people in the Metro is another interesting plot to see.

So, the question is where do our fellows settle most at? We’re quite sure that they don’t live on the river but along the rivers. You can go to Quiapo or Tondo and feel the dizzy sweat of your instant pals inside your personal bubble. Or sleep through the calm charm of large open spaces in UP Diliman and Katipunan. There is black, white, and a wide spectrum of gray when we speak of density of Metro Manila. I therefore thought of possibly visualizing the 2015 population of Metro Manila based on PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) but put it with a twist.

Not A Rocket Science

Hey this is not some sort of rocket science, physics, or some study of entropy. This is basically plain visualization of population. The most realistic method is to illustrate the population through dots in the map. But sure, the map will basically be a plain-filled color because 12.8 million dots will fill the map. So I represented each green dot = 100 people in every barangay.

Is that it? Not so fast. Each dot will randomly fill the barangay space, that is, if barangays have no waterways, restricted spaces, etc. But that’s not the case. So, I tapped all known large open spaces and waterways that would be impossible for people to settle at and restricted the random dot to be placed there. I think that’s quite logical enough. I would have wanted to do the opposite on the existing roads; that is, gather the random dots to nearest highways, roads, alleys, and waterways, but I think that would require me more time since we are talking more than 5,000 kilometers of road, barangay and subdivision roads not counted yet. That’s quite a lot. So I think I’m ready. Here’s the result:

An illustration of population growth in Metro Manila for every decade from 1990 to 2010, and 2015.

So, did you find your community? I found mine, quite true. Check yours.

A GIF Says A Thousand Words

Perhaps a moment of glance on the gif would tell us something:

  1. City of Manila is indeed the densest extending to Caloocan City (South) – with its historical role in the development of the country, it is no surprise that Manila continues to be among the densest in the country. Historical landmarks, universities, diverse services, commerce & trade, hawker shops, tiangges, transportation hub, and squatters are among the push factors in this city.
  2. Barangays along Pasig river have the densest population – does Mesopotamia ring a bell? Ting!! But this is another kind. People in Mesopotamia directly benefit from the Tigris and Euphrates. Here in Pasig River, I am not sure. We do not want to eat or drink something that came directly from Pasig River. Perhaps because the setbacks and communities along the river were among the neglected spaces by the local government thus easily occupied by informal settlers and communities.
  3. Decade 2000s marked the steady growth of south and north Manila – When the city of Manila started to deteriorate in 1970’s to 1980’s, then incoming Generation X’ers (babies of baby boomers who loved the imperial Manila) learned that city of Manila is no longer the pearl of Philippines. They started moving out to suburbs – thus BF Homes, Ayala Alabang, Moonwalk, Merville in the south, Corinthian Gardens, San Juan Greenhills and Loyola Grand Villas in the north were among the pioneer communities wherein considered fringes during 1990s. Moving forward, the fringes extended up to the borders of Metro Manila – North Caloocan extending to Bulacan in the north, and Muntinlupa extending to Cavite in the south. You will also observe the sudden increase in Batasan area in QC; perhaps that was during Erap and GMA’s relocation programs to Montalban (Rodriguez) thus directly covering the Batasan transportation belt.
  4. We seriously lack open spaces – large open spaces which serve as breathing lungs of Metro Manila are Rizal Park in Manila, Quezon Memorial Park (which is gradually becoming built up), UP Diliman campus, Ateneo de Manila campus in Quezon City, Ayala Triangle in Makati, and the Lamesa Dam Reservoir within the boundaries of Quezon City, Caloocan, and Rodriguez Rizal. More than these large breathing spaces, we need pocket open spaces that will serve population in every accessible way.

What’s Next?

I was not able to include Marilao & San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, Rodriguez & Antipolo in Rizal, Imus & Bacoor in Cavite, and San Pedro & Santa Rosa in Laguna on the map but they’re actually the next population giants.

Whether Metro Manila subway is on its way to Philippine infra scene, or Marcoses are on their grand return come next election, or BPO is still alive in the next 10 years, population is bound to grow, though there’s a diminishing marginal rate, we still tend to enjoy the country’s young population until the next 25 years. If current planned infrastructure will continue, I think, Metro Manila will start regressing population growth due to its continuous urbanization while fringes will continue to grow. That is, I’m speaking of decades of population changes, and I think that’s not gonna happen in the nearest future.


Philippine Statistics Authority. (2016, May 31). Population of the National Capital Region. Retrieved April 2017, from Philippine Statistics Authority:

Philippine Statistics Authority. (2012, April 4). The 2010 Census of Population and Housing Reveals the Philippine Population at 92.34 Million. Retrieved April 2017, from Philippine Statistics Authority:


Hottest Spot for Valentine’s Day

And, just like that, Valentine’s Day finally happened. This is the only day where you’ll see flowers blooming in the city in broad daylight afternoon. Come sunset, expect to literally bump people (and cars) everywhere. Likewise, this is the perfect excuse to splurge on sweet nothings – Holland tulips, fancy cards, posh-packaged chocolates, fully-booked restaurants, and to some extent, fully-booked inns and hotels (Oohhlala). In all perspective, Metro Manila is a hustle and bustle of people and events. Now I quickly pondered, where would they be now? On a regular Friday or Saturday night, I am sure people flock in Ortigas, BGC, or Timog, but strictly speaking, where would we flock in the Metro?

So I took the liberty of visualizing spatial movement of people in the metro. But how can I do it? Then there came social media. What is more powerful today than social media? Apps like Zomato, Foursquare, Swarm record our visit for every check-in we make. These data check-ins (don’t worry, the apps never reveal your identity in the record) are the bridge to answer my questions. There had been a lot academic sites which share these kind of data. For one, Dingqi Yang’s Dingqi Yang’s page provided a good one. I quickly downloaded some data from the site to see how busy Metro Manila is on a regular Friday and Saturday and perhaps deduce from it some side stories such as Saturday night spots, payday zones, and Valentine’s Day oozing districts. Dingqi’s site has uploaded the census check-ins of the Foursquare in the metro for the last two years. From there, I can derive the volume of check-ins for a given day or perhaps, a census for entire record years. For this quick study, for general visualization, I used all the check-ins for the recorded two years. However, to make the data useful to my objective, I only sorted the establishments relevant to people like me, who frequently visit on a payday or occasion day. These are

  1. Restaurants, fastfood chains, burger joints, bars, etc.
  2. Event places such as concert hall, stadium, open fields
  3. Lodging venues such as hotels, motels, inns
  4. Entertainment spots such as malls and theaters

The whole process was done through GIS (Geographic Information System) and by utilizing density spatial analysis. For simplicity’s sake, I initially used the optimized kernel density as I gradually develop this map. There may be a lot of flaws such as biased population data since this is only based on voluntary check-in on Foursquare. Nonetheless, this can provide an interesting insight of movement of people in Metro Manila. I think I will have to create another blog entry for the entire process of kernel density that I did with the data thus resulting the map. It was quite a long process.

The result, here’s the map:


The result of the quick study has specified spots in the Metro Manila. Though it may be obvious to some that Makati and Ortigas are the place to go, or MOA Complex will never make you bored, this only affirms visually the density in the Metro. With the result, I think I can visually rank them with the following:

Core 3:

  1. Makati
  2. Ortigas-Shaw-Tiendesitas
  3. BGC

Influential 5:

  1. MOA Complex
  2. Eastwood
  3. Trinoma-SM North
  4. Greenhills
  5. Timog

Next 10:

Star City-CCP, Katipunan, Magallanes, Airport, Alabang-Zapote, McKinley Hill, Monumento, Maginhawa, Banawe, Fairview

A reflection on Christaller’s Central Place Theory can provide us a small introduction on the concept of these developments. How hierarchy of needs exist relative to distance and necessity. How the core happened to be the source of wider range of goods and services while smaller patches of developments may provide specific need to its neighborhood.

For instance, Core 3 are the established centers in Metro Manila. Their influence virtually covers the entire country. This is where HQ offices locate – local and international, embassies and consulates, city and regional malls, museums. People are practically willing to travel to this center no matter how far since these 3 centers can provide higher goods and services. This is where dreams become reality. The melting pot of culture. These are the default dibs to whatever is something to the country. You’ll meet all kinds of foreigners and it’s normal. People are culturally diverse, more liberal disposition, creative class, artisanal, intellectuals, mean income is proportionally higher than the rest of the country.

Makati’s crowd drawers aside from its HQ offices are Ayala Avenue and Ayala Center (Glorietta 1-5, Greenbelt 1-5, Landmark, SM in one leisure walk) and the Philippine Stock Exchange. Ortigas-Shaw-Tiendesitas boasts Ortigas Business District where it accommodates Meralco, Philippine Stock Exchange, HQ offices, SM Megamall, Shangri-La, Tiendesitas, posh villages. Bonifacio Global City, meanwhile, is a fast-rising star. It will soon house the unified Philippine Stock Exchange, currently it has Bonifacio High Street, Mind Museum, open spaces, modern buildings, modern bars, modern everything. Adjacent to it is Uptown Mall and Burgos Circle.

The Influential 5 have quite different personalities but all serve as regional centers in providing goods and services. They are sometimes at par with the Core 3. Entertainment City, for example, provides gaming and entertainment events which no other districts in the metro can provide.

MOA Complex is younger than BGC but it rapidly catches up in the race. It has the Mall of Asia, The Arena, a complex of offices, condominium, the Entertainment City and soon a lot more landmarks to be built with the impending unsolicited proposal of SM. Eastwood City has limited space so I think it will remain as it is though they’re forcing to expand. Trinoma-SM North is a love-hate story of competition. They fought for consumers, products, now even the MRT common station. But this area still gives it’s contemporaries a run for their money. This district has Trinoma, SM North, and Vertis North extending up to Eton Centris. Moving southbound is Greenhills district where malls and offices are also located such as Virra Mall and Greenhills Shopping Center. The place may be relatively smaller than the Core 3 but its clientele is mostly middle class families therefore making it a hotspot for events aficionado. Perhaps two outliers seen on the map are Timog Avenue and Cubao. Cubao has undergone a lot of ups and downs. The Aranetas are continuously revitalizing the district pushing to regain its prominence during the 70’s. Timog Avenue is rich in food shops, hotels, and events places. Those two have high check-in rates in Foursquare but they’re really for food and events place only.

The Next 10 districts are the rising stars behind the centers in the Metro. They cater to specific residential and commercial districts thus their density increases gradually. Katipunan and Maginhawa basically caters UP-Ateneo-Miriam students, residents in QC east and Marikina. Banawe serves the QC-Manila boundary residents with some populace from other place due to the concentration of automotive and industrial parts. Same goes with Fairview in the north, Alabang-Zapote in the south, etc.

The whole map is not conclusive and final. Until now, I am playing around with the data to derive to an objective and statistically sound result. Be sure to check out this blog more often as I continuously develop this study. So, next time that you think where to go next, chances are – these are the top spots that will float on your list. Don’t forget! Check-in on your Foursquare app.


Dingqi Yang, Daqing Zhang, Bingqing Qu. Participatory Cultural Mapping Based on Collective Behavior Data in Location Based Social Networks. ACM Trans. on Intelligent Systems and Technology (TIST), 2015.

Dingqi Yang, Daqing Zhang, Longbiao Chen, Bingqing Qu. NationTelescope: Monitoring and Visualizing Large-Scale Collective Behavior in LBSNs. Journal of Network and Computer Applications (JNCA), 55:170-180, 2015.


Kasiyahan sa Kalanggaman

We took the plane, rode a car, and weathered the seawaves just to reach this majestic small island right in the middle of Cebu and Leyte.


A small island 129 kilometers off the coast of Palompon, Leyte. This island will surely take all your stress and problems from the city. The murmuring winds of the easterlies and the soothing sound of waves will relax your mind while enjoying the calm atmosphere of nature. I said ‘calm’ because one thing that got me hooked me here the most is its limited accommodation to people. So you’ll enjoy you’re vacation worry-free from noise of people.


We took the plane from Manila to Tacloban City which is around 600 kilometers. The travel took us only about an hour and a half. We went aboard at dawn and we enjoyed the sunrise view from the plane.


Amidst the sea of cloud is the rising sun showering me its ray of lights. It was indeed morning, sunrise and I must not miss it.


That’s our plane. It’s among the cheapest yet provides good deal of flight in the travel market. I am not their paid advertiser btw (as if I have enough readers to generate traffic mehe).

From the Romualdez Airport, we should be going to Palompon, Leyte to ride a motorboat to get to Kalanggaman. Since it’s a 129-kilometer ride, we have to take a common transportation going to Palompon which is usually bus or van. We prefer the latter. Its terminal is in Tigbao. That’s about 20-minute travel from the airport. We took a cab going to Tigbao, made friends with manong taxi driver and heard stories about Yolanda, his family, his plans in life, his political views, his outstanding loans, and we had that conversation in about 20 minutes.

We alighted at Tigbao, took our hearty breakfast while planning for our trip. Damn I forgot to capture the piece of scratch paper which we used for our itinerary planning! Nonetheless, we almost followed our itinerary. We took the van and braced ourselves for another two- or three- or four-hour ride to Palompon. We laughed inside the van, told each other’s stories, shared other people’s secrets, rumor-mongered whatever topic we thought funny and punny.

Four hours of talk, sleep, and fun and we finally reached Palompon. It’s almost lunchtime but we could imagine eating our lunch at the picturesque lone island so we decided delay it a bit and buy stuff instead for our stay in the island.



The Palompon site gives a perfect view of sky, sea and the mountains. Rent of the regular boat costs P3,000.00 so we waited for groups to at least compensate for the remaining seats.


We were able to buy some stuff for our stay and wait for groups to complete the seat. One hour had passed and off we went.

Our mission:

And our action:

There’s the island, the waves, and the sea. It was around  16 kilometers off the coast and were were running at 10-12km/hr at its peak and 5-10km/hr at the slowest. So you do the math. 3..2..1.. Time’s up. Two hours and twenty minutes. That’s how long we traveled over the sea.

One noteworthy before I share our island experience, I like the locales’ involvement in this tourist spot. They really know what they’re doing. They gave us an orientation on the proper actions within the island – no littering, spots safe to swim, spots where there’s fish sanctuary so it’s a no-no place for us.

Finally, we’re here! The island’s so cool! There is a space in the middle covered with coconut trees. There are ready monobloc tables and chairs, cottage huts, and even lawn area for tents..


The sands are white and granular, the water is so clear, it’s as if the clouds are talking to you while you’re sunk into the sea..


It’s as if the waves are inviting you into their world..


Or the sands are encouraging you to play with it around while being scorched by the tropical sun..


When you know suddenly you are not alone and the seniors are there watching over you..


and when one capture of a sandbar is not enough, you abuse your camera with it.

That’s me!


and when the day is old (corny!) and the night is young, it’s is full of shorrre..


and you feel your squad shall have the mandatory TV series-ish poses..


and the moon starts to appear while you’re by the seashore, that freakin’ orgasmic sandbar as the island’s last frontier..


The day ended with so much food, fun, and waves. I never got the chance to capture it because, as I said, we had so much fun.

The day after, we visited another amazing place in Leyte. I’ll post my story here next time.

Planning to visit? Here’s the breakdown of our cost:

Manila-Tacloban-Manila Flight – P3,000.000
Cab from airport to Tigbao – P100.00
Van from Tigbao to Palompon – P100.00
Palompon boat to Kalanggaman island – P3,000/boat – P300/pax
Envi fee – P150.00 (Actually I forgot, I’m not sure with the price sorry)
Tent rent – P300.00
Food, food, food – approx. P500.00

add and divide them all – that’s around P4,000.00 including flight! That amount is equal to a memorable experience in the lone paradise of Kalanggaman!

So yeah. Visit the island now!

My favorite shot during our visit

A Flood of Lights in the Urban Jungle Makati

Every Christmas, hundreds of visitors flock the Ayala Triangle Gardens in Ayala Center Makati to experience the world-class Lights and Sound show organized by Ayala Land with different sponsors every year. They usually run from the second week of November to first week of January. Fortunately, I was able to capture this year’s lights and sound show before it closes its curtains on Sunday. Feast your eyes with the amazing moods of lights in this annual festival of lights and sound.

The strong red lights excite the spectators for what show to expect in the next 15 minutes. The show runs at about 15 minutes with a mix of common Filipino and English Christmas songs.

The cool cyan and blue colors calm your soul as you enjoy the soothing sound of Christmas songs with your loved ones. It is free and accessible to all who wants to enjoy this visual feast.

Never forget your children when you visit the Triangle. It is definitely created for adults and children to let them feel that the best things in life are free and are spent with family.

It is an oasis in the concrete jungle Makati and a larger urban jungle Metro Manila. The theme in the redevelopment of Makati Central Business District is “Make it Makati”. Aside from the annual lights and sound show, Ayala Center will soon be rebranded as a shopping mecca, urban tourism, and global city in the country. 

Violet is a color of royalty, power, imagination and dreams. It perfectly resembles people in working in Makati who never stopped learning to conquer new heights, discover the unexplored wonders of their dream, and the neverending motivation to pursue perfection.

If there’s one color that can represent the real need of the people, it should be green. It is the color of life, clean air, sustainable environment, and an assured healthy future to today’s children.

The spectrum of red to violet reflecting from the fountain reminds me of Lincoln Memorial Park’s Reflecting Pool. The reflection, lights, arc, and the buildings produce a backdrop of a story of an urban area creating a space to make itself a liveable community.

The bright red color creates an exciting view of the place filled with different colors of light.

Who wouldn’t want to experience the lights and sounds amazed without shedding out a single centavo?

The Tower One serves as the home office of several corporations and business firms. It also happened to be the trading floor of Philippine Stock Exchange for many years.

This is the spectrum of heat and warmth – yellow red orange and violet. May the warmth of care and love be your protection from the stiff coldness of hatred and pain.

I hope you enjoyed the feast of lights as I enjoyed taking them. I’m excited what will be their new creativity this year. 

#urban #lights #city #sounds #concretejungle #huaweip9

Pullin’ Off that Pulag Pool

Mountain hiking is so appreciated nowadays that I myself felt the urge to climb the highest peak in Luzon. Towering at 2,922m AMSL, climbing Mt. Pulag is no joke. More than the needed agility to brave the steep slopes, one should be ready enough for at least five-hour walk ascent while catching up with the thin air at a cold atmosphere, and another five-hour walk and some hours of rest and taking pictures descent the mountain. Albeit its altitude and cold atmosphere, the mountain enthralls the mountaineers and hobbyists alike to climb the mountain, and if luck allows, a sea of cloud is waiting for you to be more mesmerized while biting your teeth due to sharp blows of the wind.

Before I start telling my Pulag stories, I took the liberty of plotting our path and reflecting it on a 3D map for me to able to understand further the geology and environment of the mountain. I tried to look for a plugin which could read a raw 3D version of the file I did for better appreciation of the terrain but I can’t find any. Hence, this lame picture.

Simple 3D rendering of Mt. Pulag with Ambangeg trail (yellow line) and several camps (green, blue, and red; Camps 1, 2, and 3 respectively)

The yellow line is our track which took us about 5 hours to walk ascent and around 5 hours descent. Since we’re all newbies in hike and I’m not into promising and professional hiking, we took the easiest path – Ambangeg Trail. Seen in yellow line on the image.

<note: this section will discuss how mountains are formed, you may skip this paragraph if you hate history, geology, and science>

Mt. Pulag is just among the lively and vibrant mountains in the Cordilleras. Millions of years ago, during those era when humans were still inconceivable, mountains were just two flat continental crusts separated by oceanic crust. A continental crust is like a landmass floor the earth which oceanic crust is the earth floor oceans. Since continental crusts are lighter than oceanic crust. One continental crust subducts itself under the oceanic crust thereby creating a layer of elevated landforms stretching the whole continental crust. I am not sure but I think Mt. Pulag is formed through the Kayapa fault system.

When landforms are formed, plants and birds shall form their habitat in wherever they are possible to survive and thrive. With the non-challenging seasons of the country, i.e. Wet and dry season, diverse plant and animal species have formed in the ranges. Due to its enormous altitude, the life forms have adapted to each altitude category with which they fit.

<end of Geology lecture>

People in this barangay carry a good vibe attitude. Well that’s actually a common atmosphere in provinces. Fiscal affairs are not a thing, and it’s cool.

Organic crops by local farmers. Taken during our first day at the homestay with an altitude of ~2,321m

Fronting our homestay is this beautiful, definitely organic, veggie plantation. They produce leafy veggies such as pechay and root crop such as carrots. I’m still quite awed with the strength of the old folks here. Some are almost or more than 50 I think? Yet they can flexibly squat and effortlessly sow their crops whole day.

Teasing us with a cold wind, and with an approximately of 2,300m of altitude, and a very quiet atmosphere farm, I felt the relaxing feeling I’ve been needing.

When you brought your millennial behavior to the mountains. Taken at the homestay with an altitude of ~2,321m

Dishes are also very local, native, and organic. Our lunch was Adobo, it was awesome. We requested for a Tinolang Manok for our 2nd day lunch and they granted it. Hihi. #perks

The Hike

Our preparation started at around 11pm in our homestay. Checking every backpack we have, hiking gears – check. Candies – check. Water – check. Emergency kits – check. Flashlight – check. It was exciting and thrilling at the same time. I am not really into hiking so I know my limits and capacity. In case I cannot make it, I can simply wait at a nearby stop and wait for the descent – I thought. That calms me every hike.

The infamous “sea of clouds”. If you will notice the small dot on the lower left of the image, that’s an alive human being. Imagine the scale. Taken at the summit with an altitude of 2,922m AMLS

After 5 hours of walk, talk, walk, rest, walk, and more walk, we finally reached the summit. Lucky enough, it was a cloudy weekend in Pulag thus exhibited a sea of cloud at the peak. Damn, it was heavenly, and legen.. wait for it.. dary! This was around 5:40-6:00 AM, just in time when sunrise was bathing on the sea of clouds.

Enter a caption

Pictures and more pictures. Turn around. Pictures. and more pictures.

The sunrise shot where the universe bombarded us with tsunami of clouds and freezing cold wind. Taken at the summit.


Another epic view of the ridges of Mt. Pulag. This is the mountain when facing northwest. Taken from the summit.


This will be the start of the long walk. I took this upon descent from the summit which was around 7AM. This has an altitude of around 2,750 hence still grassland but approaching mossy forest.

and grasslands everywhere.

Approaching the mossy forest, the sun is in its full shining glory hitting us. This was taken 2 kilometers away from the summit, with an altitude of approximately 2,730m AMSL.

Let me discuss a bit of detail here. We know that Mt. Pulag is 2,922m. But its environment has 4 different vegetation zones. As every hiker will observe, as one ascends to higher altitude, the environment changes.


I plotted the elevation with its corresponding dominant vegetation zone. The summit is basically grassland while the next category altitude is dominated by mossy forest. It is evident with the pictures below taken betwee 2,400 and 2,700 meter-elevation.

I don’t know what type of flower this is, I’m still looking for it. These species are the welcome committee in the mossy forest. Their fiery red flowers remind us to revitalize ourselves for the coming long trail. Taken with an altitude of approximately 2,720m AMSL.

Lower altitude but within 2,400 range is still dominated by mossy forest which is characterized by cool species which I cannot name because I don’t know them. But they’re cool.

Trees are already dominant in the this vegetation zone. Trees thrive in the mossy forest with enough wind, sunlight, and cover from the mountain ranges. Taken with an altitude of around 2,710m AMSL.

A took them randomly because they just stand out along the trail.

A lot of species of trees, plants, shubs, thrive in a rich forest. Taken with an altitude of around 2,710m AMSL.

A lot of species of ferns are also covering the forest. Several insects are also seen in the mossy forest with mostly bugs, snails and cool organisms. (yeah, idk them yet so I called them cool.:P)

Ferns and plants in the forest with an altitude of around 2,700m AMSL

Good thing I have my powerbank to power my phone to capture all these stuff. I think I was among the tail and whip in the group. I walk slow and enjoy the view, and check the altitude.

Seeing this relieved me a lot because this rice field is just near our jumpoff so it must mean, we’re almost done with the hike! Damn! Sahleedd! Taken at around 11AM with an altitude of approximately 2,400m AMSL.
So this concluded our hike at the alluring Mt. Pulag. We were about 12 in the group and some have went home earlier, perhaps they missed our homestay badly. Hehe.

So what are my key takeaways in the hike?

  1. Mountain hiking may be enjoyable because you get to hike with your friends, but it is also not a joke because it requires physical strength and power. Nonetheless, at our age, we are young and energetic, it is best to put one of our neverending energies in hiking.
  2. The environment is irreplaceable and therefore non-renewable resource. Imagine, it took the mountain’s flora and fauna millions years to survive, thrive, and enrich to sustain the biodiversity of the mountain’s environment. As a mountain hiker, it is best to maintain, if one cannot help, the environment of Mt. Pulag.
  3. The ENRO (Environmental  & Natural Resources Office) is taking steps to maintain and restore the diminishing life ecosystem in Mt. Pulag. I saw their effort to information and mitigation drive, the stone guides created to guide the hikers to walk only along the trail.
  4. Mt. Pulag is among the surviving museum of environmental and geologic monumental feature. When you haven’t seen it yet, you must, but be wary of your responsibility to maintain the environment.
  5. People are the key factors to Mt. Pulag’s destruction and restoration. Locales and tourists alike may have committed mistakes in the past but they’ve already learned from it. It is good to meet the locales of Mt. Pulag environment. They are meek yet vibrant, submissive yet pursuing, and simple yet remarkable. The complete the allure that Mt. Pulag has.


Hikers won’t be hikers without them being adventurous and stray. Aside from the usual Mt. Pulag hike trip, there are some wonders – artificial and natural, that are worth seeing before going to the community in Pulag.

We took a sidetrip to Agno River and Ambuklao Dam Water Reservoir with the Ambuklao Hydroelectic Plant. It’s a massive infrastructure built during 1950’s. Imagine, this structure is half-a-century already and it still looks new and fine – well-maintained perhaps.

The Ambuklao Water Reservoir
view from the bridge in Ambuklao Hydroelectric Plant.

We also visited the hanging bridge and the drying tributary connecting to Agno River. I am not sure what happened or what is happening to this river but I think this is drying up.


Of course, this won’t be possible without my gang, my colleagues, my college friends, Jackie, David, and Eugene! Special mention to Jackie who painstakingly prepared the whole hike for us. She’s the lost twin of Mariang Makiling and lost daughter of Lam-Ang. Very strong and adventurous friend. Till our next hike.

That mandatory selfie with your friend when on a typical tour. The gang with the Ambuklao Water Reservoir as the epic backdrop.



Hipol, R. M., Tolentino, D. B., Fernando, E. S., & Cadiz, N. M. (2007). Life Strategies of Mosses in Mt. Pulag, Benguet Province, Philippines. Philippine Journal of Science , 11-18.

UNISDR. (1982). Tectonics, Seismicity, and Volcanism of Luzon., (pp. 32-39).