RIZAL | Mt. Tagapo: An Underrated Hiking Destination



Plans of hiking Mount Tagapo have been around our barkada for years. Though the mountain is just an hour of boat ride away from our homes, our work schedules always don't permit. If not because of the post-vacation hangover that lingered weeks after our La Union trip, the hike might have not been realized for longer.

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In order to relieve that travel itch while having the need to let our pockets recover from the recent spree, we hit the road for a destination nearest our reach—a worthwhile yet less visited mountain in Rizal province.


Mt. Tagapo, Talim Island, and Laguna Lake

Mt. Tagapo is the highest point in Talim Island, a dagger-shaped land mass at the heart of Laguna de Bay—the country's largest lake. When viewed on the map, Talim Island is like a blade (hence the Filipino word talim) that cuts across the vast lake from south to north. Two Rizal towns have jurisdiction over Talim Island but technically, Mt. Tagapo falls under Binangonan municipality; the urban-yet-homey fishing town where we grew up.

Gimpse of the bosom-shaped crest of Mt. Tagapo
Glimpse of the bosom-shaped crest of Mt. Tagapo (on far end)

When I was young, we used to spend family reunions in my uncle's makeshift hut in the middle of Laguna Lake; he used to own several among the plethora of fish pens in the lake. On our way there, my father often told me about a certain mountain called Susong Dalaga (maiden's breast) — that is what the townspeople call Mt. Tagapo — while pointing me to a crest that, according him, resembles a young woman's bosom. I can't see it then because I was an innocent kid; I am until now. Haha!

From the boat ride going there, from the towns of the adjacent Laguna province, and even in some points of Metro Manila (such as in my current office building in Ortigas), one can spot the mountain's breast-shaped peak.


Binangonan Fish Port
Binangonan Fish Port


Mt. Tagapo Day Hike, Finally

We boarded the passenger boat scheduled to set sail at 8:30 AM; a bit late from an ideal time for day hike because we missed the earlier boat. We're supposed to be bound for Brgy. Janosa, one of Talim Island's 17 barangays that are under Binangonan municipality and the jumping-off point to Mt. Tagapo.

From Binangonan Fish Port, it takes around 45 minutes to reach Janosa; boat stops at every barangay to alight passengers in each. It's almost an hour of getting soaked in some picturesque rock formations tucked in verdant banks and a vista of the bustling Metro Manila with its seemingly polluted atmosphere.

Verdant banks of mainland barangays
Verdant banks of mainland barangays
Metro Manila's grayish atmosphere
Metro Manila's grayish atmosphere

We get off the port of Brgy. Buhangin, the stop before Janosa, to fetch our friend who stays there and to get some provisions for the hike. From there, Janosa's barangay hall (where hikers register) is a five-minute tricycle ride. No hikers were in sight. I was thinking maybe we're just late and they were already on the trail, but I was wrong. No other hikers had registered that fine weekend.

Our hike commenced a little before 10:00 AM. The trail begins with a cemented path that cuts through a residential area and a primary school's backyard. Environs shifted after about 10 minutes or so; it became verdant with towering bamboo trees that abound in the island.

Bamboo grove on the trail of Mt. Tagapo
Bamboo grove on the trail of Mt. Tagapo
Bamboo grove on the trail of Mt. Tagapo
Bamboo grove on the trail of Mt. Tagapo
Bamboo grove on the trail of Mt. Tagapo

Bamboo groves cover most parts of the trail. Talim Island's richness of this perennial plant had developed the craftsmanship among the island's natives, giving way to the town's bamboo handicraft industry. We even met some wood gatherers on our way.

Bamboo wood gatherers on the trail
Harvested bamboo woods
Shady mango tree along the trail

Halfway through the hike, we reached a shady mango tree; under it were some rocks with flat surfaces we could sit on and catch our breath. Another half hour of trekking and the campsite ensued. In this part of the mountain where a makeshift hut stands and offers a respite for day hikers, one can behold perhaps the most popular segment of Mt. Tagapo—the crest that resembles Bliss, the good old Windows XP's default computer wallpaper.

Mt. Tagapo's crest
Mt. Tagapo's crest


At the Summit

With the calming breeze and idyllic view of the crest, the campsite is a surefire way to regain strength for the last 10 minutes of the feat to the summit. The sun's at its peak by the time we're about to scale the top. Nothing but cogongrass covers the crest's rolling slopes so getting to the top would also mean letting oneself sun-drenched. Umbrella is a necessity at this point of the journey.

Path to the summit
Part of the Laguna Lake reveals itself
My friends posing along trail to the summit

The waters of Laguna Lake slowly reveals itself as we ascend. Ten minutes of tiresome trek towards the top and the entirety of the lake and surrounding land became a sight to behold. We marveled at the peculiar patches formed by fish pens scattered throughout the lake's vast expanse, some familiar peaks such as that of Mt. Arayat in Pampanga, the sprawling Metro Manila, and the facing tips of mainland Luzon and Talim Island. The last has captivated me the most.

View of the campsite from the summit
View of the campsite from the summit
Cove-like portion of Talim Island and fish pens of Laguna Lake
Cove-like portion of Talim Island and fish pens of Laguna Lake
A remote village south of Talim Island
A remote village south of Talim Island
Glimpse of other peaks covered with clouds
Glimpse of other peaks covered with clouds
Tips of Binangonan (mainland Luzon) and Talim Island
Tips of Binangonan (mainland Luzon) and Talim Island

Reaching Mt. Tagapo entails a two-hour land travel and about an hour of boat ride from Metro Manila. Passenger boats from the town center follow an hourly schedule while boats from the island has no definite time of arrival, thus requiring allowances in the itinerary. These logistic aspects may be one of the reasons why most hiking hobbyists and enthusiasts often overlooked Mt. Tagapo despite its proximity to Manila.

But with the charming bamboo-laden trail, the one-of-a-kind summit, and the scenic 360-degree vista on top, experiencing Mt. Tagapo is worth a spot in anyone's bucket list.

TRAVEL GUIDE: Mt. Tagapo Trip Guide and Itinerary (Day Hike)



DJ RIVERA

Filipino, dad, office guy, hobbyist. Writes computer programs on weekdays, works on just about anything on weekends. Click here to know more.

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