DRT Bulacan: Digos hills

DRT Bulacan Guide Part 1: Digos Hills

When I saw  Biyahe Ni Drew’s  DRT Bulacan episode which was released Nov 16, 2020, I said to myself that I have to visit DRT Bulacan’s 13 Falls before everybody else finds out about it. As of this writing, it seems that only DRT has opened up its doors for tourists regardless of their origin. And because of my thirst for adventure, I planned to visit it despite the threats of covid to save my sanity. In this post, I will share our plan, itinerary, expenses, and misadventures. Click this to read my 13 Falls Travel Guide. 

There’s a lot of other waterfalls destination in DRT but 13 Falls seems to be the most adventurous. We also picked Candle Monument to camp overnight because it looks to be the best for hammocks and tents. However, we ended up and Digos Hills where we had a not so good experience.

Planning for DRT Bulacan

Since I’m still afraid of catching covid, the original plan was to visit 13 Falls and camp overnight on Candle Monument with 2 travel buddies only. We can’t really commute so we would have to drive from Cavite to DRT.

DRT Bulacan is just starting to be known as a travel destination. Organizing my trip here wasn’t exactly easy because there’s not enough information on the internet about it. Not even their FB page has published informative guides. When I inquired from DRT Netizen FB Group about rates and itinerary, I got numerous private messages from tour guides who are offering their services, but their rates are not standard. I received these rates from a tourism official.

 

Apparently, groups with less than 5 people have to pay more expensive rates. So I just decided to invite friends to save on costs. Our final number was 6 people and we had to pay 250 per person for the entrance and guide fees. I am already in contact with a tour guide who will meet us at the registration when we arrive.

Annoying Plan B: Digos Hills instead of Candle Monument

So our day came, we arrived Nov 29 at 8 am to meet our guide at DRT Arc. It has been raining the previous day and we were worried that the water is not clear and uninviting for swimming. Well, we had a more serious problem to face: Candle Monument and 13 Falls were closed due to the rains; and the officers said they just received the update from Munisipyo right when we arrived. They said that all sites in DRT are closed since the advice was from the Municipal Hall. I was so disappointed about the super late and quite illogical notice. I mean, why close even the campsite? As we were speaking, there were already campers at the Candle Monument (which is on a hill, by the way). Later on that day, we found out from the guide that Candle Monument eventually opened THAT DAY but we were already camped somewhere else by then. Sighhhh. They’re really pretty new in the tourism industry and their SOP seems yet out of order.

Anyway, we drove further from DRT ark and found Digos Hills open. We talked to the registration staff who said that the overnight rate is 200 per head. Remember, our budget was 250/head only for the camping and guide fee. But we just settled there despite the more expensive cost because we don’t know any other campsite that is open.

We spent the whole day in crowded Digo’s Hills. I bet that all tourists who wanted to go to Candle Monument and 13 Falls also have no choice but to stop by here.

Digos Hills Felt Like a Tourist Trap for Us

We were just happy that there was another campsite open in DRT. At least we are near the registration area for 13 Falls so we can visit it the next day in case it opens. We found our own spot and we pitched our tents. The rain was on-off and the sky was really gloomy. We had nothing to do but eat and just enjoy the views. Again, the place was crowded during the day so we didn’t really roam around that much to avoid other people.

The “Bantay Fee” Trap in Digos Hills

To be fair, Digo’s place is a privately-owned land good place for car camping. It really has a great view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. However, when night came, we were approached by staff telling us that we need to hire a “bantay” for 500Php to watch over us while we were camping. I was like, “What the FUDGE??!” We tried to bargain since we were not informed when we were at the registration area, and they were informing us of the additional expense AT NIGHT when we have no more choice but to stay!

We said “No, we won’t pay and no, we won’t leave” because it was their fault not to inform us earlier, they don’t even have signage reflecting this cost. Unfortunately, the owner then came to our spot while we were having dinner to inform us that it’s either we PAY or LEAVE. Duh? Gabi na po, there’s no way we would leave so we just decided to pay AGAINST our WILLS for a person who did not even do anything but sleep while we were sleeping. What a TRAP! Had they informed us from the onset, we would have felt better because we have money to pay extra anyway, or we could have gone back to Candle Monument which eventually opened later that day. Sorry for the rant but I felt I needed to share this so that people planning to camp there would not experience the same.

Itineraries

Since our original plan was tweaked, we visited 13 Falls which opened the next day. Here’s our actual 2D1N itinerary:

Day 1 

5am – ETD from Cavite by car
8am – ETA to DRT ark, since closed, we went to Digos Hills
8:30am onwards – Camping and picnic
8pm lights out

Day 2 – 13 Falls

6:30am – Breakfast
7:00am – Break camp
7:20am – Registration at DRT ark, meet our guide
7:30am – Ride 4×4 to 13 Falls Jumpoff
8:00am – Start trekking
12noon – Finish trekking, back at jumpoff
1pm – Departure

Expenses

Aside from the toll fee and gasoline, we were just supposed to pay 250/head for 13 Falls and overnight camping in Candle Monument plus parking. But because of an unforeseen circumstance, we exceeded. Below’s our actual expenses based on a group of 6 people.

200 per head – Overnight entrance at Digos Hills
50 per vehicle/ 3pax per vehicle) = 17/head Parking fee
500/ 6pax = 83 – “BANTAY FEE” duh
150/head – 13 Falls entrance and guide fee

Total: 450/pax. We exceeded our original budget by 200 per pax because we camped in Digos Hills.

Final Tips: What to Expect in DRT Bulacan

Sierra Madre view from Digos Hills
Sierra Madre view from Digos Hills

Despite our misadventures, we still enjoyed our DRT Bulacan trip because of the nature that it boasts and the company of friends. It was great to be surrounded by mountains again.

  • Check the weather before visiting DRT Bulacan. If it’s been raining prior to the day of your visit, be prepared to have a Plan B because their officers can shut down a destination due to rain without prior notice.
  • It’s best to have a contact person who is a local guide so you can plan your trip with him and ask for information even before getting to DRT. I recommend our guide Johnjohn Papa (Contact number: 09353372958)
  • Even if you have not booked a guide, you can easily hire one upon arrival at DRT registration. Having a contact prior to arriving is just for the convenience of getting the information you need in planning.
  • You can visit DRT Netizen FB Group to check other destinations you can visit in DRT Bulacan such as Talon Ni Eva, Tila Pilon Hills, Secret Falls, etc.

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Photo credits: Anthony Tuana and Joel Luna

 

 

 

 

 

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