Climbing Mt. Santo Tomas (Tuba, Benguet, Philippines)
I am not a professional mountain climber and I had never really tried mountain climbing. I went to Mt. Sto. Tomas out of duty, since I didn't have a choice, but I did choose to enjoy the view, the coolness and the experience.
Mt. Sto. Tomas is located at Tuba, Benguet. From Baguio City we went to the place via Marcos Highway. Even getting to the foot of Mt. Sto. Tomas, which took more than an hour via four-wheel drive, already seemed like climbing a mountain.
Baguio City, Mountain Province
Three Days on the Road
Day 1: Manila to Baguio City
I asked my officemate why we needed to stay at Baguio when we were leaving Manila so early and would definitely reach Baguio with plenty of time to go to Mt. Santo Tomas. But my officemate said Day 1 would be rest time and we would need to gather our strength to climb the mountain.
Day 2: Baguio City to Mt. Sto. Tomas, Tuba, Benguet, 6:00 am
They told us we needed to depart as soon as the sun was up; it is not advisable to go to the mountain in the afternoon or when the sun is beginning to set.
We were to return to Baguio City by 12:00 noon, eat lunch, and take a nap.
Day 3: Baguio to Manila
Baguio and Mt. Santo Tomas: Tuba, Benguet
Baguio is the most popular province of the CAR or Cordillera Administrative Regions. It is in fact the summer capital of the Philippines. It is known as the coldest place in the Philippines simply because of its very high location. But Mt. Santo Tomas, of Tuba, Benguet, is a lot higher.
Visiting the foot of the mountain, one hour away from Baguio City, is considered an adventure already. It was a comfortable trip via four wheel drive, which can stand the rugged terrain. An expert driver plays a vital role because not all drivers are good enough for this zigzag road. For everybody's safety we needed to consider the skills of the driver who would bring us there.
Photos Taken from the Vehicle
It was already a sightseeing trip from the window of the four-wheel drive vehicle travelling up to Mt. Sto. Tomas. It was getting colder and colder as we were getting nearer to our destination. The view of nature was so overwhelming that it encouraged me to do the climb, making me wonder how much more beauty I would see if I reached a much higher part of the mountain. Well I did not really expect to reach the peak...
At the Foot of Mt. Santo TomasClick thumbnail to view full-size
I was startled to see the foot of Mt. Santo Tomas. When we arrived, a heavy-duty truck was blocking the way. It was clearing scattered rocks of all sizes so that some vehicle could pass freely. We needed to walk 5 kilometers more to reach the peak.
The road looked narrow but passable by a vehicle with the size of a four-wheel drive and an owner-type heavy-duty vehicle. But we chose to walk. Riding a car going up is taking a risk: the road is narrow and rough. As you go up, at your left is a very steep cliff; God only knows if you would survive if you fell with the vehicle.
When I saw the rocky mountain road, I felt like I just wanted to stay in the car, or just be left behind and wait for them hahaha....But I knew I needed to go and I would get bored if I stayed behind waiting. I told my friend Juliet to go ahead, and I would just follow the trail. I decided to climb at my own pace for two reasons: first so I wouldn't slow down the group, and second so I wouldn't need to push myself catching up with them. I had not visited the gym for years so for sure I had very poor stamina, plus I was on the heavy side.
Photos of the Mountains
I took photos on my way up, honestly enjoying the view, but also giving myself more reasons to take my time climbing. It was cold, but I was perspiring. I felt thirsty too, but I thought drinking would make me feel like I wanted to pee. So I was thinking that I should keep walking, which would let me perspire more and lessen the tendency to pee.
Viewing Mountains from on Top of the Mountains
The views were, well, breath-takingly beautiful. I would only have needed to see one angel and to believe I was closer to heaven. It's was like witnessing a painting that became a reality. It looked like the top of the world, as we saw mountains below us, and fog or clouds that seemed to gather above those mountains.
The skies are more beautiful up high; the different shades of blue were so refreshing to the eyes. The wind and sweet smell of nature made me feel like I wanted to lie down and rest, but I knew I need to continue walking.
For the first time, I saw how broccoli grew. The expensive crop was planted alongside the road. It was beautifully arranged on the steep side of the mountain, and could have been mistaken for lettuce. It was harvest time too when we visited the mountain.
Our Purpose for Visiting the Mountain
We actually went to the mountain on a mission. Like other communication companies, we have installed communication equipment in the area, and we went there to check on it. Near our tower are buildings owned by another government agency.
Since we did not really come there to hike, we decided to go down right away after checking the dog house and the communication equipment. I thought going down from the mountain was easier...but then again it was not something that a first-time climber could take lightly. I needed to control my steps, walk slowly, and maintain my balance, or I would find myself reaching the foot of the mountain by rolling. Hahaha, that was just a joke.
We went to a sari-sari store to rest and get some refreshment. The same store was also selling broccoli, and for fifty pesos my friend bought a plastic bag full of broccoli. So cheap, and definitely fresher than what we saw in the supermarket.
I was amazed to see baskets and boxes of broccoli; this vegetable is rare and expensive in Manila.
More on Mt. Santo Tomas
For more detailed climbing information, here is a description of Mt. Santo Tomas by an expert mountaineer.
© 2014 Maria Cecilia