Balingkilat Traverse: An Unexpected Difficulty

I knew a day hike of Mt. Balingkilat was going to be a long trek. I didn’t count on having flashbacks of my climb in Guiting-Guiting while scrambling on its rocky trail.

At 1,100 meters above sea level, Mt. Balingkilat is among the highest peaks in the mountain ranges of Subic, Zambales. Its name means bahay ng kidlat (house of lightning) in the native language of the Kulot, the Aeta community in the area. Locals attest that during thunderstorms, lightning always strikes on the mountain, hence the ominous name.

Mt. Balingkilat as seen from Mt. Dayungan

Mt. Balingkilat as seen from Mt. Dayungan

The trailhead to Balingkilat is in Barangay Cawag, a 30-minute ride from the city proper. Our plan was to start the trek before sunrise, descend on the other side of the mountain, and head for Nagsasa Cove, a quiet beach in the town of San Antonio where we’d set up camp. The coastal mountains of Zambales are mostly grasslands and don’t have a thick forest cover. Trekking on the open trail in the midday heat is a surefire way to get roasted alive (pun unintended).

The first hour of our hike was fairly easy. The terrain was flat and the river we crossed only had ankle-deep waters. We reached Kawayanan, a bamboo-covered campsite, just as an early morning drizzle turned into heavy downpour. Based on the weather forecast, we expected a rainy climb but getting cold and drenched was still no fun. Good thing the rain let up as we were about to resume the trek.

Although it had stopped raining, there was still heavy cloud cover throughout the day, which made the heat on the open trail more bearable. The terrain got steeper as we started the four-hour assault to the summit. There were boulders to climb over and sharp slopes to scale.

Mt. Balingkilat revealed its beauty as we went higher. We could see rivers snaking through the valley below, waterfalls gushing down the mountainside, and thick layers of clouds drifting about. When the ascent got too exhausting, all we had to do was turn around and the stunning panorama was enough to keep us going.

Balingkilat view

Reaching the summit, however, was a bit of an anti-climax. The peak was cloaked in fog so there was no view whatsoever. Also, we were tired from the hike and we didn’t get any sleep the previous night so we all dozed off after a quick lunch.

The summit is spacious enough to accommodate several tents but there’s a much bigger campsite just a few meters below. A nearby stream serves as a safe water source but it sometimes dries up in the summer months.


Water source near the campsite

Water source near the campsite

The traverse trail going to Nagsasa Cove was the toughest part of the climb and it was partly because of our foolish expectations. Our guide said the descent would only take two hours which we took to mean that it would be easy. We ended up trekking for five hours.

There were more boulders on the trail, the slopes were sharper, and the precipitous drops in some parts made my knees weak. The ridges and jagged peaks reminded me of Guiting-Guiting, one of my most challenging climbs to date and the first mountain to make me cry (but that’s another story).

Balingkilat trail 1

Balingkilat trail 2

Balingkilat rest stop

Nagsasa Beach

Nagsasa Beach

Getting to level ground was a relief but it took a few more river crossings and roundabout routes to avoid wild cows before we finally got to Nagsasa. After a long day on the mountain, I’ve never been happier to see a beach. The waves were too strong for swimming and the sand was neither white nor powdery but the sea is always a beautiful sight.

It wasn’t easy going up and down the house of lightning but the mountain was a gracious host to us. The climb may have been unexpectedly difficult but it was well worth the visit.

* * *

Thanks to our guide and porter, Kuya Binggoy and Jonathan, for getting us through the climb safely. To Jet, Karen, Lee Jay and Inigo: Thanks for the mortifying Happy Birthday song at the bus station and the cupcake with the perfect frosting that survived the traverse. It looked like murder in a box after the climb but I’m sure it had fun along the way.

All photos except for the first one are by Jet Reyes.


10 thoughts on “Balingkilat Traverse: An Unexpected Difficulty

  1. drostrata

    we experienced worst, traversing balingkilat up to Anawangin for almost 12 hours. Si kuya guide kasi nagbigay din ng false hope by telling us malapit na…. or paglagpas lang nyan.. at may part din kami ng pagpapabaya by bringing not enough water. muntik na rin kami sa heat stroke, at dehydrated talaga kami lahat… wala pang water source na malapit, kaya yung tubig ulan ng hapon sinikap namin ipunin para mainom… not eating lunch dahil wala ngang water na panluto at nagtiyaga sa uncooked noodles at toothpaste hehe.. hindi rin namin maipaliwanag kung trail nga talaga yung binabaan namin, basta sabi nya mag-ingat kami kasi may wild carabao daw at isa pang hayop na nakalimutan ko na kung ano… but thankful pa rin kami sa guide namin kasi kahit kinakabahan na sila baka may masamang mangyari sa grupo namin, nandun at nakaalalay pa rin sila.. nung ginabi na kami at mga 2 hours away from Anawangin pa nakahanap na rin sila ng maiinom – not that clean pero kailangan ng inumin.

    one of my worst but worthy climb. dun mo talaga mapapatunayan yung mga tunay na kaibigan 😀 at magpapatatag ng samahan by surpassing all the obstacle na buo pa rin kayo 😀

    share ko lang… 😀
    p.s. sa climb na toh, sinumpa ko tuloy yung BAGPACK ko… yung mga sumunod na climb naka porter na ko kasi na trauma talaga yung likod ko sa balingkilat.

    1. Gerard

      kahit yung guide namin di nila alam nung inabot kami ng 10pm sa anawangin flatland (forest kasi) habang nagrerest kami hinahanap nila ang way para di maligaw. wala din water source from balingkilat traverse to anawangin. Sa anawangin na mismo ang water source.

  2. Ivanlakwatsero

    we were supposed to do a dayhike din sana para makapag-beach na kagad sa Nagsasa, but the summer heat almost killed us. hndi namin kinaya, kaya nag-stay nal ang kami sa Kawayanan campsite hanggang hapon and nag-overnight na lang sa summit area. As always, I like your narrative 😉

  3. Ariel Cercado

    Same time-miscalculation by our guides back then 2011, left us 5 hours w/o trail water. We were so dehydrated our piss is in dark orange and our skin couldn’t sweat anymore even on a searing hot summer. The water source on the ‘waterfalls’ was so dry leaving some puddles of greenish stagnant water but couldn’t wait until we arrive at Anawangin, I took risk chugging those stinky water just filtered through my unused sock.

  4. Tintin Post author

    Yikes, andami palang horror stories sa Balingkilat…

    Na-anticipate naman namin sa IT na long trek talaga kaya ang nilagay na ETA sa Nagsasa ay 5pm na nasunod naman. Nung day hike kasi namin sa Dayungan last March eh mga ganun din ang trekking time so I figured pareho lang siguro more or less.

    Nag-iba lang ang expectations nung nasa trail na kami at sabi ng guide ay 2hrs lang daw pababa. So feeling naman namin madali lang ang trail at by 2pm ay nasa Nagsasa na kami, talo pa ang IT. But no, maling-mali. Haha.

    Buti na lang maulan that week kaya sagana sa tubig ang mga water sources. Maulap din throughout the climb kaya di ganun kalakas ang demand sa tubig. Ang recommendation ng mga kakilala ko ay June onwards umakyat kasi pamatay talaga sa init ang mga bundok sa Cawag pag summer.

    Thanks for sharing your Balingkilat stories! At least memorable ang mga climb sa bahay ng kidlat. 😀

  5. Simpleng Mamumundok

    We just did Mt. Balingkilat traverse to Anawangin yesterday.. 2 lng kmi kaibigan ko plus guide. we started to trek at around 3am from brgy. Cawag and reached Anawangin Cove around 1pm. Almost perfect yung weather and time. 1 hour ko lng isinumpa ang init.. that was 1 hour trekking prior descending to Anawangin Cove. Medyo kabado due to cobras / snakes and wild carabaos. We witnessed from above the ridge yung group ng wild carabaos in one of the hills in Anawangin. mga 5 sila. Prior to that we saw snake skin along the trail.. sbi ni kuyang guide galing sa balat ng “matapang na ahas” We just thought its cobra.. total of 10 hours trekking! 🙂

  6. Gerard

    share ko lang

    from sitio cawag to base camp ng balingkilat 8hrs may malapit na water source sa base camp 30mins lang kinuha ng guide namin sila na kumuha. tapos kinhua namin traverse sa anawangin cove ng 14.5hours, sobrang dehydrated kami. grabe almost 9hours walang tubig kasi sa anawangin na tlaga kinukuha ang water source.

    ito naging itirenary namin

    Day 1
    10:OO jump off sitio cawag resettlement , subic
    11:00 start trek
    13:00 kawayanan lunch(water source)
    14:00 resume trek
    18:30 base camp pitch tent
    19:00 socials
    20:00 lights off

    Day 2
    6:00 wake up breakfast( kuha na ng mdaming tubig kasi may water source malapit sa base camp)
    8:00 summit Mt.balingkilat pictures
    9:00 resume trek traverse to anawangin
    14:00 lunch (ubos na water namin)
    22:30 anawangin forest (flatland) still wala parin clean water source
    23:30 ETA Anawangin cove/beach

    nung nakarating kami sa anawangin may maliit na tindhaan ng softdrinks grabe naka ubos ako ng 1.5 na Sprite, dinner.

    Day 3
    1:30 AM boat to pundaquit
    2:00 AM ligo( grabe ang iingay namin kami)
    2:30 tricycle to san antonio
    3:OO AM San antonio
    5:00 ETA Olongapo
    9:00 ETA Manila

    yung iba di na nakapasok. grabe experience namin dito. pero enjoy!

  7. MT.balingkilat

    sa mga aakyat po ng cawag mountains, eto po sana ang kontakin nyo sa oh hanapin nyo Chieftain Jimmy Ablong 0921-9543215.
    Tom Ablong 090747371-17 – 0909-3732926.

    sa kadahilanang, hindi totoo na wala na si chieftain Jimmy Ablong sa posisyon bilang datu sa community ng cawag.
    sa kadahilang ang lahat ng bundok na inaakyat sa lugar na iyon ay uder jurisdiction ng kanyang pamamahala.
    sa kadahilanang, ang grupo ng isang tribo ay hanggang registration area lang.
    sa kadahilanang, ang mga guide nila ay nambabato ng sasakyan ng mga mountaineers, at pumapasok sa loob ng tent..
    hindi iyon madisiplina ng kanilang chieftain juanito. at,

    dahil kapag may emergency na nangyari sa bundok na kumontak sa kanila na sila ang nag bigay ng guide, ay saamin din ang bagsak. kami din ang nag sasacrifice. sila na nag bigay ng guide sila na kumuha ng halos lagpas sa kalahati ng registration fee sila ay nagtatago. at hindi nakikipag cooperate….

    sana po maging malinaw na sa lahat ng aakyat ito, at sa mga nakakaakyat na sa kabundukan ng cawag subic zambales…
    maraming salamat.

    God Bless.



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