Wednesday, January 18, 2017

NALAYAG ROCKS AND MT. MASALAKOT: "Sailing the Rocks Wonder's Peek and Wide-Brimmed Hat Peak of Balibago"


"Sailing the Rocks Wonder's Peek and Wide-Brimmed Hat Peak of Balibago"
By: Ramon Q. Gayas Jr. (Ser Montaineer)

Acknowledgement: I Ramon Q. Gayas Jr. would like to extend my gratitude to all the people who helped in making this article possible especially to the following persons: Professor Anacleto M. Caringal of Batangas State University for providing relevant information, Lito Camo and his family who served as my host in Brgy. Balibago,  Demetrio Avila and Jerome Sulit the local guides assisted me in exploring Nalayag Rocks and Salakot Peak. I would also like to thank my hiking companions who joined me in exploring the features surrounds Nalayag Rocks, Punas valley, and the Monna’s Peak: Jep Erenio, Monna Policarpio, Rolven Ciriaco, and John Ryan Secretario, as it would have been close to impossible to have succeeded without their support.


Behind the sea and hidden valley encompassing South-Eastern Lobo-San Juan Mountain Range rises "Nalayag Rocks" and "Mt. Masalakot" (Nalayag-Salakot), a set of potential outdoor destination sits at the mountainous complex of Brgy. Balibago, Lobo, Batangas. A logistically challenging site yet, an adventurous and presently gaining prominence in Lobo's hiking scene; which offers new trails to hike, rocks to climb and views to relish. Nalayag Rocks is a composition of elevated block, nestled at the ridge of Mt. Masalakot, contrast to some description calling it "Monolith" or Mt. Nalayag. It was imaginatively accounted by the local folks as "Nalayag", as it looks "layag" - sailboat's centerboard-shaped rocks formation - that is "nalayag" or "sailing" through the forest when viewed from the sea. However, If there is a place in the area that called mountain, that is no other than the Mt. Masalakot (Salakot Peak) which apparently bear the shape of "wide-brimmed hat" otherwise known as "Salakot", as per the local folks.

The Nalayag Rocks has been noticed by the blogger during their exploration at Mt. Tilos (640masl) in Brgy. Malabrigo on February 09, 2015. A year after (February 21, 2016), through the assistance of some local "habal-habal" drivers, the blogger was able to check it out via Sitio Punas in Brgy. Balibago, where he reached the rocks' bottom but didn't ascend the top due to rock climbing technicalities. He did another attempt on March 28 of the same year together with his team, but unfortunately missed the right trail. However, the said attempt surprisingly brought his group to the discovery of 600+masl (unverified) summit of Monna's Peak (named for blogger's hiking friend Monna Policarpio), one of the rare-explored sub-mountain in the area, which is a nice vantage point to capture the panoramic view of Nalayag Rocks together with Salakot Peak, Punas valley, Mt. Tilos range and nearby seascape. In order to see the other entry point to Nalayag Rocks, the blogger took another ocular visit a month after (April 25, 2016), via Sitio Maligaya, also in Balibago, and found out another trail heading to it.

On the other hand, recently one local guide based in Brgy. Malabrigo named Russel Sioco succeeded in exploring Nalayag Rocks. From then on, climbing up to the rocks became possible. While the interest of climbing the summit of Salakot Peak eventually arises. As of December 2016, there are different groups and individual ascended the rocks, but the hike to summit Salakot Peak that time is not yet push through. One thing the blogger did after climbing Nalayag Rocks - through the help of local guide - from the trail of Sitio Maligaya last January 08, 2017, the day that marks his journey to the 650+masl (unverified) summit of Salakot Peak. 

THE BLOGGER'S TEAM (L-R) Jep Erenio, Monna Policarpio, Rolven Ciriaco

The hike to Nalayag-Salakot is doable through the trails of Sitio Punas and Sitio Maligaya, both suitable as entry and exit point, hence, traverseable. However, take note that the accessibility of these trails might change depends on weather and trails condition, and policies may emerge in the future, considering there is other alternate route - in Sitio Langkaan, also in Brgy. Balibago - to reach the Nalayag-Salakot and there are areas in both trails that are privately owned.

"Sitio Punas as jump-off"

On the trail via Sitio Punas, the trek usually start in front of waiting shed near the coast that bound Malabrigo and Balibago, initially passes through rough road heading to Punas' community. The trail after the community offers view of Mt. Tilos, and passing this way will lead hikers to Punas Valley. Though hinder with occasional river crossing, trailing through Punas Valley may treat hikers to several mini-falls and small clear basin, which can be found near the place they called "piit" or "Punas' bridge". The streams in Punas Valley serves as refresher before passing the slanted woodland up to the farmland rich with sinturis and coconut trees. The said farmland is customarily use as resting place, good as rest stop point and potential as campsite. Additionally, the view of Nalayag Rocks is overlooking from it. After a minute of trek from the farmland, one will be able to see the gigantic beauty of Nalayag Rocks. Unbeknownst to many, it is turning to beak-shaped form when viewing it from the east. Then, the trek goes through the forest, that gives challenge of steep ascent and obstruction from some barb wire fence placed in the area, which then lead to Nalayag Point, the place where Nalayag Rocks is astride.

"Sitio Maligaya as jump-off"

Trailing the way via Sitio Maligaya is shorter than in Sitio Punas. The trek originates from "sentro-balibago", where hikers primarily walk through cemented pathway surrounded with several houses and patch of coconut farmland, enough for warm up prior passing the upslope and exposed rough road trail. While going through the rough road, hikers could have initial glimpse to some interesting sceneries such as; blue Seascape of Balibago and the peak locally known as "Ahit", a place that is full of "ahit grass", perhaps, a potential viewing point. Thereafter, the hikes goes through gradual slopes; mostly shady, established, and an easy to negotiate terrain which possesses "koprahan" ground, and potential rest stop point. But follows with slanted and slippery forest trail (more challenging when wet), which sometimes requires hikers to grasp on some ropes placed in the area in order to reach the Nalayag Point.

"Sailing up to Nalayag Rocks"

The Nalayag Point may treat as midway of the combined Nalayag-Salakot hike. However, it’s up to hiker to decide for the itinerary sequence; wether climbing Nalayag Rocks first then next is Salakot Peak, or vice versa. Also, put into consideration that climbing Nalayag Rocks is a very dangerous activity.

At Nalayag Point, hikers may explore the blocks that composite Nalayag Rocks, any of these are potential for viewing; while the tallest one is the most exciting(?), gives thrill and culminate in a 360 degree view. The tallest block among the rocks is said to be 75 meters tall (unverified), as per the local guide. It can be climb through the wooden ladder and rope support attached on it. Though, some parts of the ladder are wobbly, which will probably become weak in the long run. Some portion of the rock is looks sedimentary (unverified), which may lose in the future if constant climbing occurs. Since the top of it is precarious and may only accommodate 4-5 persons, limitations and safety precautions must observe to prevent accident. Moreover, future studies on rocks' vitality may added for safety purposes. As safety is concern in ascending the rock, hiker may use own rock climbing gear, but assistance from the local guide is still recommended. However, climb at your own risk.

At the top of Nalayag's tallest block (550+masl, unverified), one can behold the seascape of Balibago and outlying Tayabas Bay. The Salakot Peak is nice to see aligned with the overlooking Islets of Mindoro. The nearby Mt. Tilos range and other highlands of Balibago are looks pristine, and the view downwards to Punas valley is spectacular.

"Sailing up to Salakot Peak"

As the trek resume in Nalayag Point, it will basically passes through rocky path then will continue inside the lush forested environment. The trek to Salakot Peak might be uncomfortable to those not used to hike newly blazed trail, they might feel the struggle as the way is literally steep, but a lot of small tress to hold while going up. However, don't expect the views to be spectacular, as the entire trails is still exploratory (as of January 08, 2017), but potential to give viewing. In fact, at some portion of the main trail lies potential viewing point facing the highlands of Balibago and Nalayag Rocks, a corroboration that there is alternative way to enjoy and appreciate the Nalayag Rocks rather than taking the risk of climbing it. At the summit area, one may climb a tree to behold the sceneries which consists of "Malagundi Point" and "Simbahang Bato" coast, Seascape of Balibago-Biga and outlying Tayabas Bay. There is also potential window where one can see Mindoro, Mt. Halcon (on clear day), bit of Verde Island corridor and Malabrigo point.

"Sailing the side trip spots"

Once headed back at the jump-off, either in Sitio Punas or Sitio Maligaya, hikers may proceed for side trip, though optional and depends on itinerary preference. In Punas' trail, the streams there may consider as side trip, aside from the fact that the trailhead of Punas is near from many beach resorts. However, the hikers coming from Sitio Maligaya may check out the beach in Malagundi Point - for only 15 minutes' walk - which is found holding numerous rocks formation. The rocks formation there has an ideal position where hikers can contemplate the "sailing" and "wide-brimmed hat" looks of Nalayag Rocks and Mt. Masalakot. Furthermore, the coast of "Simbahang Bato" is another interesting spot to visit from Brgy. Balibago. Since the Malabrigo Light House is located along the road to Balibago, it may include as side dish of Nalayag-Salakot adventure.

Overall, the Nalayag Rocks and Mt. Masalakot is an added attraction to the mountain eco-tourism in Lobo, Batangas. These discoveries are pleasant introduction to hike up the exploratory range of peak in Brgy. Balibago. The beautiful features, and challenge it offers, and its state of being combinable to other blissful spots, makes the Nalayag Rocks and Mt. Masalakot a substantial adventurous outdoor destinations.



Destinations Profile
Major jump-off: Sitio Maligaya and Sitio Punas, Lobo, Batangas
Elevation (unverified): Nalayag Rocks 550+masl, Salakot Peak 650+masl
Hours of Climbing: 3-5 hours
Days of Climbing: 1 to 2 Days
Alternate trail: Sitio Langkaan, Brgy. Balibago Lobo, Batangas
Specs: Minor Climb
Difficulty: 4/9 with dangerous rock climbing
Trail classes: Sitio Maligaya (Cemented Pathway, Rough road, Woodland, Forest)
Sitio Punas (Rough road, River bank, Woodland, Farmland, Forest)
Features: Streams, Scenic views, Rocks Formation, Exploratory
(As of January 08, 2017)
For commuters: 

P127 - BUS - Manila to Lipa Bus Terminal 
P120 - VAN – Lipa Bus Terminal to Lobo Poblacion

First Trip of van Fom Lipa: 0630
Last trip of van from Lobo: 1700
For private transportation: 

Head out your trip to Batangas City Diversion Road via SLEX Star toll-way, then take the road to Lobo, Batangas (left corner of diversion). From Poblacion, proceed to Brgy. Balibago coastal road and alight at Sitio Punas or Sitio Maligaya. Ask the locals about parking area. Approximately 4 hours travel time from Buendia, Taft Avenue.

For Van/Jeepney rental: You may contact Jonel Deferia at 09954960103.

For “habal-habal” service from Poblacion to Balibago: You may contact Mark Joseph Dangan at 09361264581, Eugine Ilagan at 09308485808, and Herbert Banados at 09565972331 / 09073423188
Contacts and Coordination
Tourism Officer: Ayan Deferia 09954960103

Nalayag Rocks Guide: Russel Sioco 09350393023 and Rolly Magtibay 09199756465

Mt. Masalakot Guide: Contact Demetrio Avila and Jerome Sulit tru Lito Camo at 09995352612

PNP Lobo Hotline: 09983144867

For eco-tour in Lobo: Prof. Anacleto Caringal of BSU 09369365887
Register at PNP Lobo, Pay Environmental Users Fee for P20, Register at Brgy. Balibago, Pay nominal fee of P20 (as of January 2017).
Guide is highly recommended (new hiking destination)
P550 per Guide for Dayhike
Hiking notes and Precautions
Hiking Trend Status - New hiking destination, with a lot of arrivals on weekend as of January 28, 2017.

Prerequisite – 4 hours day hike and rock climbing experience is an advantage.

Rock climbing – Dangerous, assistance from local guide is recommended.

Day hike – Highly recommended

Night trekking – Coordinate night trek plan before proceeding
Cell phone signal – Sporadic at the Jump-off but present at around 400masl.

Water source – Available at the Jump-off community, and trails of Sitio Maligaya and Sitio Punas. Bring 2 to 3L for day hike, 4-5L for overnight.

Sun exposure – At rough road trail of Sitio Maligaya, and initial section of Punas Valley (Sitio Punas).

River Crossing – Occasional in Punas valley, weather-dependent.

Trail condition – Gradual to slanted, slippery when wet, and with several rope segment. Both trails are established from jump-off to Nalayag-Salakot (As of January 28, 2017). 

Thorny Plants – Minimal

Bladed Grass - Minimal

Rope segment – In Nalayag Point/Rocks

Limatik – None
Campsite / Camping notes
Near Koprahan for Sitio Maligaya trail, at Sinturis/Coconut farmland for Sitio Punas trail, coordinate your camping plan and bring enough water (4-5L).
Side Trip and Facilities
Beach at Malagundi Point: No entrance fee as of January 28, 2017. There is no facilities in Malagundi, but available at the community.

Coast of Simbahang Bato

Malabrigo Light House

Malabrigo Beach: Ask the locals about resorts’ fees (entrance, cottage and camping) if you have plan to stay overnight, consider time adjustment.

Shower area: At the trail head of community

Sari-sari store: At the trail head of community
Estimated Budget

(for manila-based commuters, itinerary adjustment is advise)

Number of participants
5 persons
1 Day / Day Hike
P254 - BUS - Manila to Lipa Bus Terminal (back and forth)

P240 - VAN - Lipa Bus Terminal to Lobo Poblacion (back and forth)

P500 per person - Habal-habal or Rented Van/Jeepney - from Poblacion to Balibago (back and forth)
Guide fee
P100 per person
Registration fee
P 40
P1200 (w/ P66 contingency fund)


Via Sitio Maligaya: Nalayag-Salakot Dayhike
(For group with private vehicle)

0300 ETD from Manila via private vehicle
0600 ETA Tourism office/ PNP Poblacion Lobo Batangas, Register, Breakfast, Proceed to Sitio Maligaya, Brgy. Balibago
0730 Stop over at Malabrigo Light House, Take picture
0815 ETA Sitio Maligaya, Courtesy call, Register, Arrange guide and prepare for the hike
0845 Start trek
1015 ETA Nalayag Point, Explore Nalayag Rocks and prepare to hike up Salakot Peak 
1115 Resume trek to Salakot Peak
1145 ETA Viewpoint facing Nalayag Rocks, Take picture, Rest and Lunch, Resume trek onward
1300 ETA Summit, Explore the area, Take picture
1400 Start descent
1500 ETA Jump-off, Proceed to Malagundi Point
1515 ETA Malagundi Point, Swim, Take picture, Head back to jump-off, Rest and wash up
1700 Head back to Manila
2100 ETA Manila

Via Sitio Punas: Nalayag-Salakot Dayhike
(For group with private vehicle)

0300 ETD from Manila via privatevehicle
0600 ETA Tourism office/PNP Poblacion Lobo Batangas, Register, Breakfast, Proceed to Sitio Punas Brgy. Balibago
0730 Stop over at Malabrigo Light House, Take picture
0800 ETA Sitio Punas, Courtesy call, Register, Arrange guide and prepare for the hike 0830 Start trek
0915 ETA Punas Bridge, Visit mini-falls (optional)
1030 ETA "Dampa" (sinturis/coconut farmland)
1200 ETA Nalayag Point, Rest, Lunch, Explore Nalayag Rocks and prepare to hike up Salakot Peak
1330 Resume trek to Salakot Peak
1400 ETA Viewpoint facing Nalayag Rocks, Take picture
1430 ETA Summit, Explore the area, Take picture
1530 Start descent
1630 ETA Stop by in some mini-falls, headback to jump-off 
1800 ETA Jump-off, Rest and wash up
1930 Headback to Manila
2330 ETA Manila