An incredible landscape with the view of Nueva Ecija mountains towering behind the vast Pantabangan lake awaits hikers after an hour of a chill uphill climb in Mt. Kaanducian. Named after the Tagalog for Japanese Acacia trees, Mt. Kaanducian has opened to the public since 2017, yet only a few have been blessed to see it. Yes, this mountain is not popular, and the Tourism of Pantabangan wants to keep it this way to preserve its beauty.
Fasting in Mt. Kaanducian
It has been a yearly tradition for me to start the year with a week of fasting. Usually, I would just stay in the city and deny myself of food or other cravings of the flesh so I could be more sensitive to whatever God is telling me to guide me for the year. This 2019, I decided to spend it in the mountains, just as how Jesus usually did it back in His time; He’s my favorite outdoor person, by the way: walking in water, solo hiking mountains and stuff. 🙂
I was hoping to spend 4D3N in a secluded place like Kili in Tubo Abra, which I just recently just visited last December, so it’s out of the list. It was difficult to find a mountain that was easy to hike (given that I won’t have enough physical energy) that is at the same time, not a blockbuster trail yet provides amazing views at the summit. First in my consideration are the mountains of Cordillera but then traveling with a sleep system, water and supplies for 4days 3 nights would be much of an effort; I might faint on the way! I also thought of Mt. Kalugong in La Trinidad Benguet but I remembered that it could get more visitors due to its popularity which would ruin my experience.
Then I remember seeing a friend’s post about this Mt. Kaanducian, some 400+ MASL that requires only an hour of hike. Upon googling the internet though, I found not a single travel guide. Good thing my friends sent me previously the contact of Pantabangan Tourism. So I was on the way to Nueva Ecija the next day!
How to go to Mt. Kaanducian
Not following a specific itinerary, I left Cubao at 10pm riding the next bus that goes to Cabanatuan Central Terminal, where I can ride another bus going to Baler that will pass by Pantabangan. I didn’t realize that I could also ride a Genesis bus which goes directly to Baler, and get dropped off at Pantabangan, instead of doing a broken trip.
So there are two ways you can get to Pantabangan:
1. Ride a Genesis bus from Cubao to Baler and alight at 711 Pantabangan. First trip is at 3am and last trip is at 7:30am with an interval of 1 hour between trips.
2. Ride a Baliwag or Five Star bus to Cabanatuan Central Terminal. A trip leaves Cubao 24/7. Upon getting to Cabanatuan, ride a bus to Baler. In my experience arriving at Cabanatuan at 1:30am, I had to wait for the first bus to Baler which left at 4am. I just left inside the bus while waiting for departure.
Registration and Fees
Prior to coming to Pantabangan, I have been in contact with their tourism personnel. Kuya Rudy specifically picked me up from 711 Pantabangan at 5:30am and led me to the tourism office almost just across. Although I was doing 3 nights, I paid a total of 1075 only including the boat transfer across the lake, registration fee and the guide fee. Below, however, is the usual registration fees:
Boat Rental = 1000/group roundtrip
Guide Fee = 350/group of 7 (500 if overnight) required
Registration Fee = 30/pax
Seedling = 50/pax
Solo Hiking Mt. Kaanducian
Because I was hiking solo, they allowed me to join the utility boat that sends Bantay-Gubat locals in duty for the day. They just charged me P250/way, which is already 50% discount if I rent a boat for 1000 roundtrip. The trip crosses Pantabangan lake for around 30 mins depending on the wave condition.
Reforestation in Mt. Kaanducian
There is a reforestation program going on in Mt. Kaanducian since 2014 and since then, locals are stationed in a couple of “towers” (which are just actually nipa huts) to oversee the mountain and respond in action in case of fire. Because Kaanducian is mostly characterized as vast grassland, the reforestation aims to grow plants and trees that will one day cover in shade what now are exposed trails and peaks.
Mt Kaanducian Guide
After registering at tourism office, Kuya Rudy via his motorbike sent me to the jumpoff / port to meet the guide and ride the boat. Unfortunately and fortunately, guide is required. Unfortunately, because the trail is very easy and established; fortunately because I had help carrying my 4L water and other food supply.
You can ride a tricycle worth P50/ride if you are one or two people, or P20/person if you are 3 pax. A tricycle can fit 3 pax only. I met Ate Cora, my guide. Apparently, there are only 3 guides for Mt. Kaanducian. Ate Cora frequents the job to support her 4 kids as a single mom. Since only a few people know aboout the mountain, she rarely gets a decent income out of guiding. This blog hopes to spread the beauty of Kaanducian so that more hiking enthusiasts will visit which will translate to more opportunities for the guides to earn.
The Trail and Summit
I should say that this is the best chill climb I’ve ever done ever! The open trail with an established path takes just an hour before you hit the summit. Dead and burned grasses and cut down tree trunks are noticeable towards the summit, as preparation for seedlings to be planted when the right time comes.
Upon getting at the summit, the hiker will be rewarded with the scenic backdrop of the lake and peaks of Central Luzon behind it. Although a very good mountain to do a dayhike, camping is definitely highly recommended so you can observe the sunset and the sunrise. Since not a lot of trees are available at the summit, there is limited option for hammocking, but there is quite an option for tent camping.
I found 2 perfect trees with the best vantage point of the surroundings, facing west, therefore a good spot to watch the sunset, and hang my hammock for 3 days. I got the perfect weather with clear skies at night making it hard to fall asleep because stargazing all night long was addicting. The sky reminded of my hike to Mt. Fansipan in Vietnam which probably has the most incredible star-filled sky I’ve ever seen.
There was no single hiker at all during my stay. Ate Cora left right after we reached the summit on the first day so I enjoyed the mountain on my own. There is no water source near the summit though, so I made sure that my water supply woulld be enough for my stay. Around 30-45 minutes below the summit, there is a bunkhouse station for the Bantay Gubat where one could take a shower, but I didn’t bother. My wet wipes supply was enough. 🙂
I am highly satisfied that I picked Mt. Kaanducian. She is my first mountain for 2019 and I was her first hiker for the year as well. I got the meditation and reflection moment that I was seeking for.
Mt Kaanducian Suggested Itinerary
My suggested itinerary is based on my experience and the price I know for the bus trips. You can get the bus straight to Baler and alight in Pantabangan as well as early as 3am.
12 midnight: Ride the Fiver Star or Baliwag bus to Cabanatuan Central Terminal
4am Ride the first bus to Baler
5:30am Meet tourism officer and register
6am Ride the tricycle to the port
6:15am Ride the boat
6:45am Start hiking
8am Summit 🙂 Enjoy the views!
12n Start descent
1pm ride the boat
1:30 pm log out at tourism
2pm Ride the jeep back to Cabanatuan terminal
3:30 Ride the bus back to Cubao. Take SCTEX to avoid traffic in Bulacan
8pm ETA Cubao
If overnight, just defer the descent on the next day 😉
RT Bus from Cubao to Cabanatuan 187 x 2 = 374/pax
RT Bus to Pantabangan 80 x 2 = 160/pax
RT Trike 50 x 2 = 100/pax
Guide 350/7 (if daytrip) or 500/7 (if overnight)
Boat rental 1000/7
Safe budget for a group of 7 is 1000/pax. For solo travelers, the budget would increase to around 1600/pax, but if you’re looking for a quiet time like I did, it was more than worth it 🙂
Ms Emi (Tourism Head) 09958900852
Kuya Rudy (he mainly talks to the hikers during planning stage) 09655714909
Ate Cora (guide) 09975343277
I suggest you just contact Kuya and he will coordinate everything 🙂
If you are looking for a mountain where you can actually experience peace and nature without the noise of a crowd of hikers, Mt. Kaanducian is perfect. While I wanted to keep these information to myself so that I could always go back there and find it still just to myself, I also hoped to help Ate Cora get a living. So don’t hesitate to visit this mountain while it still has its “untouched” feels in it. My only request is to leave no trace. <3