BY RICKY MONTECILLO
Mt. Timbac, Atok, Benguet Province
Mt. Timbac is said to be the 3rd Highest mountain in Luzon, next to Mt. Pulag and Mt. Kabayan. The locals plant vegetables like broccoli, carrots and cabbage. For many generations, the Timbac locals carved the mountains into terraces for vegetable farming.
Lately, adventure seekers and nature lovers are starting to discover the beauty of Mt. Timbac. Rather than going to crowded Sagada, visitors are trickling in to this cool and quiet spot on earth.
It’s a fairly easy ride by big bike. Timbac is only about 300 km from Manila via Baguio. From Baguio it’s about a 2 hour ride.
The route takes you to the long and winding Halsema highway.
Unlike in the past, Halsema is now busy not only with the small trucks filled with vegetables on its way to the Trinidad market, but also has a lot of tourist vans and private cars going to Sagada.
Good thing Restie, Mhar and I rode our elephant BMW GS 1200s, and with Mhar spearheading like a police escort, our travel time was faster.
Riding in the mountains is always a joy. The scenery is breathtaking and the weather cooler.
Visitors of Mt. Timbac are advised to register first at the Atok Municipal hall Tourism office. There the office can inform you of the van rentals going up and also the several homestay places for accommodations.
We didn’t know that. We just went straight up.
We rode along the Halsema until we saw the sign on the right going up to Mt. Timbac.
There is a steep access road going up that takes you to the Mongoto Elementary School. The road is narrow and steep and it would be good to be alert for on coming vehicles.
When we reached the Mongoto School we stopped to inquire with the locals where we could stay. The school was holding a meeting that day and there were a number of people.
Luckily, we were approached by Joyce Camsel, a friendly lady who pointed us to the house on top of the mountain where we could stay and camp.
Joyce and her husband Salvador own the place and they host many visitors most weekends. Their nephew Wilfredo and niece Aileen are the ones who will take care of our needs.
The narrow roads turn into tire paths and become rather tricky because of has some tight uphill turns. This may be challenging for big bike riders. But hey, what’s an adventure without challenge.
When we reached the place we parked our bikes by the road side, unpacked and brought our stuff up to the homestay. The house is newly built and it can house a lot of people. They charge 400 per person a night.
We chose to camp further up the mountain to experience the nature, marvel at the 360 degrees views and feel the 10 degree temperature or maybe even colder.
We pitched our tents on the small campsite. We bought some canned goods for food and 4×4 Ginebra Gin to keep us warm for the night and to extract some truth to our storytelling. Some things maybe forgotten the morning after but that just means we had fun.
Willy set up a bonfire for us and joined us at the campsite. The site is about 100 meters up and quite a hike for matured knees. Yup no toilets. You’ll have to hike back down to unload.
The Gin washed away our tiredness and lifted our spirits 80 proof. Willy told us about life in Mt. Timbac. Their existence is simple. The men tend to the vegetable farms the whole day while the women takes care of their children at home.
They are Igorots. The local dialect is Ibaloy but many speak Ilocano and tagalog. Willy has three young children, two are twins. He said that hopefully their spot will be discovered by more visitors and so they can earn more.
We sat by the campfire with old pine woods burning to keep us warm. The night was chilly but the conversations and the gin made for a great combination until it was time to sleep.
Restie woke us up before dusk for us the witness the sunrise.
That was the experience of Mt. Timbac. Standing there at the mountain top with 360 degree views of the Benguet and Cordilleras mountain ranges, with the chilly breeze of the morning, we watched, took pictures and thanked the good Lord for a wonderful morning.
But no matter how great Samsung phones capture the scenes, the site is really “for your eyes only”, which means that nothing beats being there and feeling it up close.
That same weekend, some photographers were also there because they photographed the Milkyway.
Makes for the best memories, of wanting more of nature and thanking the universe for its genius.
Friends, go to Mt. Timbac. It’s just off Baguio, escape the city life and feel the healing powers of nature. And you get to ride your motorcycle.