Date-Worthy Ba?: Hiking For Two at Mt. Hapunang Banoi

One boring afternoon in 2011 gave birth to the blog you're reading today. A 15-year-old high school student on her sembreak , I thought it was a cool idea to start a blog called "The Diary of a Teenage Queen". (I still wonder why friends never called me out on the embarrassing blog title!)

I named it a diary to connect with people with similar interests, and jot down what I learned as I grew up. The blog is a journal—not just for me, but also for readers—to share about life with all its beautiful victories and heartaches, lessons and MMK episodes, plus everything in between.

And speaking of life and growing up, one area where I’ve matured in is love. After an abusive, toxic relationship, it took me over a year to find myself and trust again. But love—the patient, unselfish kind—finds you when you're not looking. I’m grateful I found Josh, and am very excited to go through all the little ups, downs, and surprises life has for us!

So to cut the super long intro short, I'm starting this segment called His and Hersh, where Josh and I share date tips for Filipino couples. We’re kicking off the segment with a post on our first-ever hiking trip together!

Preparation

Hershey: Okay, to be honest, WE HAD NO ITINERARY. After blogging about being drained at work because of my inability to say no, I realized I wanted (read: needed) a break. So come Friday night, I nudged Josh, saying, "Let's go to Wawa Dam in Rizal tomorrow". Was I expecting a yes? Not really. But was I surprised at his answer! He said, "Sure. Let's go!"

Josh: Hershey refreshes herself when she visits water, whether seas or lakes. For this trip, she just wanted to show me around Wawa Dam and relax. But since I was the type of guy who crams as much as I could in a day, I suggested climbing one of the nearby mountains as well. Though she was quite reluctant to, we finally settled on Hapunang-Banoi, a peak that didn’t seem too hard for our first hike together. We also debated if we should leave QC at 4AM, but since I was a sleepyhead, we settled on leaving after sunrise.

Here’s how we got to Mt. Hapunang-Banoi:

6AM-7:30AM (about 1.5 hours): From Cubao, we took the van/FX going to Rodriguez, Rizal, getting down at Eastwood (the village, not the mall!)

7:30AM-8AM (about 30 minutes): From Eastwood, we took a tricycle to Barangay Wawa, the jump off point for the mountain. Here, we registered with the DENR and got a guide, who prayed for our hike and gave a short talk on climbing safety.

About Mt. Hapunang-Banoi

Mt. Hapunang-Banoi stands at a humble 517 meters above sea level. The peak is rated at 4/9 difficulty, a bit harder than Mt. Pamitinan and other nearby peaks.

The mountain actually takes its name from the eagles who stop by for lunch and afternoon tea! Hapunang-Banoi used to have a lot of monkeys for eagles to snack on. Once in a while, lucky hikers catch a glimpse of the majestic bird high in the sky, scouting around for lunch.

Hapunang-Banoi is home to people too! The locals used to burn down the forest, kaingin-style, to grow crops, but guide climbers for income nowadays. However, people still grow vegetables and fruits in the lower parts. We found their avocados very yummy and cheap!

The Hike

Our tour guide told us we needed gloves because of the rock climbing to reach the summit. We bought gloves at the stalls across the DENR Office at around 50-100 pesos a pair.

The hike started with a 15-minute walk through the village. We passed by a bridge that spanned Wawa river, and walked in the shade of trees towering over the footpath.

Hershey: Forty minutes into the hike, I realized I was—gasp—on the first day of my period! I was a bit prepared for it (always trust your instincts!) but was still in extreme pain because of dysmenorrhea. Josh kept asking if I wanted to hike some other time, but I insisted that we keep climbing, since we had already covered a fourth of the trail. THAT WAS A REALLY BAD IDEA.

Josh: The ascent from the base of the mountain was steep, and Hershey needed a break. We passed time watching rock climbers getting their adrenalin fix at a tall rock face, rappelling up and down. Below, pizza fails to cheer up the girl on her raging period. HEHEHE.

Hershey: I usually put hot compress over my puson to ease the cramps, but since we were in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, I had to push myself to keep walking. By 9:30, we got to a hut where vendors sold food and refreshments. Josh asked for hot water in a cup to ease my pain. Oh, Korina Sanchez and Mar Roxas were chilling in the same area too. HAHA!

Josh: This was at the junction between Mt. Pamitinan and Hapunang-Banoi. The local guides told us that the celebrity couple was climbing both mountains that day. They arrived really early, bringing a drone to document their hike. Looks like we weren’t the only couple on the mountain that day!

Hershey: Our guide wasn't kidding when he said the climb would involve A LOT of rock climbing. I've been to Mt. Pamitinan before, and I think Mt. Hapunang Banoi was far more difficult (though perhaps my dysmenorrhea played a huge factor in this, HAHA).

Josh: Overall, the steep parts of the climb are at the base and at the summit. The middle part after the junction is more of a stroll from one bamboo grove to another, with lots of rocky trails to contend with, but not much struggling uphill. Towards the summit, the trail disappears into a series of rock cliffs and formations. We really had to rely on the guide to know where to go.

Hershey: Oh, just me casually crying in the middle of the climb while Josh takes my most unattractive photos. (HAHA #ForeverADramaQueen!)

Hershey: After almost four hours, which felt like forever, we finally made it to the top! There are several perfect photo-op spots at Mt. Hapunang Banoi. Here’s the first one.

Hershey: And here’s the second!

Josh: The almost-360 degree view at the summit was simply magnificent. It was my first time to see the Sierra Madre mountain range, and the endless green-and-blue of forest and sky was breathtaking.

Hershey: This is what really happens in between photos: me crying from the pain and fear of heights, and Josh assuring me everything will be all right (and laughing because a grown woman is crying in front of him, 517 meters above sea level).

Hershey: I found the descent far more difficult. It began to rain really hard after we started down the mountain, so we were stuck in one place for fifteen minutes, cold and wet.

Josh: By some stroke of luck, it started pouring just before we arrived at the junction, where we sought refuge under the leaky tarps. After the rain let off a bit, we got back on the trail. This time, there were no more rocks to contend with. Instead, everything was muddy and slippery, so we took our time heading downhill.

Hershey: Finally, after four hours, we were back safe and sound. We also walked to Wawa Dam so I could show Josh where I went soul-searching a year before :P #Drama #ImSuchAWriter HAHAHA!

During summers, people flock to Wawa Dam to picnic and rent rafts to paddle upstream. But during rainy season, the rushing water is all you can hear. We headed back to take a shower and have dinner near DENR before commuting home.

Full Itinerary and expenses

6AM - Depart QC, take FX to Rodriguez, Rizal. (You can also take public transpo from Commonwealth and Ortigas areas)

7:30AM - Arrive at Eastwood Village, Rizal. Depart for Barangay Wawa via tricycle

8AM - Arrive at Brgy Wawa, register at DENR and get guide

8:30AM - Begin climb

9:30AM - Arrive at junction of Mt. Hapunang-Banoi and Mt. Pamitinan

12PM - Arrive at summit of Mt. Hapunang-Banoi. Lunch, photo op, rest, begin descent

5PM - Arrive at DENR, sign out, visit Wawa Dam, shower, have dinner

6PM - Depart for QC

8PM - Arrive at QC

Expenses:

Transportation: 50 Pesos for the FX ride and 60 Pesos for the Tricycle ride (special rate). Total is 110 Php for a round trip from Cubao.

Equipment: 50-100 Pesos for a pair of gloves.

Guide: 500 Pesos minimum. You can give more if you want! A guide is good for 4-5 pax.

Registration: 100 Pesos per person.

Food: Just bring a packed lunch!

The total per person is around 500 Pesos only!

Date-Worthy ba?

Hershey: If your girlfriend isn't on her period, YES! Kidding aside, I had fun with Josh! This was one mountain we conquered together, literally. It was the first time he saw me cry in pain, and he was very patient and helpful all throughout the hike. It was a bonding experience we've never had before. LOL.

Josh: I second Hershey’s comment!

Tips for Couples / Lessons We Learned

1. Wear the right shoes.

Hershey: Because everything was unplanned, I wore the wrong shoes. Just a tip: DO NOT HIKE IN RUNNING SHOES! It was raining cats and dogs, and the mud was slippery, which made it difficult to descend. It's much better to invest in legit hiking gear that gives more traction. I’d recommend wearing open-toe sandals—the mountain was very steep so my toenails kept pressing against the tip of my shoes. Ouch!

2. Make sure you're physically ready.

Josh: We really wish we had prepared for this hike beforehand! Cardio is key in hiking, so try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking more in general, and integrating exercise into everyday routine. Some people have better cardio than others, so if you need to play catch up, get some exercise going before hiking.

3. During rainy season, start early to avoid the thunderstorms.

Josh: It’s best to start hiking early in the morning (around 5 or 6AM) to avoid the sun and rain. During rainy season, aim to finish the hike early to avoid the daily thunderstorms that roll around the Sierra Madre in the afternoon. For our climb, it started pouring by 1PM, so we spent a lot of time stuck in the rain and getting soaked.

4. Always be patient with each other.

Hershey: Patience is important in every relationship. I really appreciated how understanding Josh was towards me during the hike. Instead of getting upset about my complaints during the hike, he helped me climb steep parts and even offered to carry my bag.

6. Women are damn strong!

Hershey: After this experience, I realized just how strong and determined women are. I also look up to female athletes who experience period pain every month but still manage to train and compete regularly! RESPECT!

Are you planning to hike a local mountain soon? Let us know all about it in the comments section below! Don't forget to like Hey Hershey Blog on Facebook and follow @heyhershey on Instagram! 

Happy hiking,

Josh and Hershey

#HisAndHersh