Mt. Malac (Mal-ak) and Baawan Falls Hiking Guide

An exciting trail with scenic mountain peaks and virgin waterfalls was recently opened for hikers in Rodriguez Rizal. Resting in Sitio Puray, Mt. Malac or Mt. Mal-ak is a 644 MASL peak with a 16.32km trail in Sierra Madre that is still undiscovered by the majority of hikers in the Philippines since its opening last December 2017. My craving to hike a mountain that is not mainstream only strengthened when I couldn’t find blogs about it. This is probably the first ever guide that will be published about Mt Malac so I hope to cover as much information as I could, along with our experience hiking it last May 2-3.

I was looking forward to this hike especially after seeing this Mt Malac recap video from youtube.  My last hike was in Mt. Kalugong and Mt. Yangbew near Baguio but I was with my friend Jay who served as my guide. I didn’t have to research or find out anything prior to the hike. This time  though for Mt. Malac, since not a lot of information is provided on the internet, we were prepared to face some hiccups along the way.

Final assault to Mt. Malac's grassland summit
Final assault to Mt. Malac’s grassland summit

The Mission: Hammock Camping in Baawan Falls

Being hammock enthusiasts, our group of 4, I with Jay (my hammock buddy), Paul (my balik-bayan friend from Canada) and Peter (packed our bags with the intention to camp overnight in Baawan falls. There is no declared campsite yet near the summit of Mt. Malac; should you want to camp in tents, you may pitch within the Dumagat community in Sitio Quinao. For us, however, the sound of the waterfalls at night while sleeping on a hammock and the convenience of the water source during camping sounded perfect. Besides, a contact mentioned that there are trees near the falls; add to that the forecasted clear skies (none of us had tarps). So the plan was to spend the night by Baawan Falls.

Getting To Mt. Mal-ak

The jumpoff point of Mt. Mal-ak is in Sitio Puray. We met in Cubao at 5am and rode the van to Rodriguez Rizal, alighted after an hour at Total Gas station in San Rafael, walked across the street to the wet market where the terminal of tricycles bound for Puray proper is found. I believe it’s the same tricycle terminal for those intending to climb Mascap mountains such as Mt Ayaas, Mt. Sipit-Ulang, and Mt. Oro.

The tricycle is roofless, and can carry a maximum of 6 pax on the rough road’s journey to the Puray jumpoff. We were fortunate to go there during summer, when the unpaved roads are dry and dusty, instead of muddy. The tricycle driver said that when the road is wet and unpassable, they go through river crossings as an alternative way. Some parts of the road seem passable only to vehicles built for rough terrain such as a Land Rover. Although hard for the drivers, they prefer the road to stay this way so that they can earn a living from the hikers that come. Once paved, they fear that hikers can already bring their own vehicles, bypassing their service.

The roofless tricycle to Puray Proper.
The roofless tricycle to Puray Proper.

Registration at Puray Proper

After about an hour of butt-grueling yet scenic tricycle ride, we arrived at the registration area in Sitio Puray where each had to pay Php50 for the registration fee. We secured a guide who agreed to accompany us until the next morning. The guideship fee for Mt Malac daytrip is Php800, but since we are spending a night in the falls, we agreed to add Php500 more. Besides, we were also accompanied by the guide’s two tiny yet strong dogs. We had unneeded pieces of baggage with us since we were intending to beach camp in Batangas after our 2D1N in Rizal, so we left the items at the store/jumpoff. We were doing a backtrail anyway.

Registration area at Puray Proper, the jumpoff to Mt, Malac (Mal-ak)
Registration area at Puray Proper, the jumpoff to Mt, Malac (Mal-ak)

The Hike

We started hiking at 7:30am and followed the dry riverbed to the feet of Mt Malac. Since it was summer, the route is passable. However, the guide said that outside summer when the river flows with a strong current, another route in the mountains serves as an alternative. After following the rocky riverbed, the assault started at around 8:45 am. Vegetation still served as shade from the scorching heat of the sun at the beginning of the ascent. However, close to the summit, the grassland has dominated the panorama with a few trees here and there.

The first part of the trail traverses the dry riverbed before starting the assault.
The first part of the trail traverses the dry riverbed before starting the assault.
The second part of the trail is the first assault with vegetation providing shade to hikers.
The second part of the trail is the first assault with vegetation providing shade to hikers.
Some parts of the trail can be characterized by burned grassland due to kaingin
Some parts of the trail can be characterized by burned grassland due to kaingin

A The incredible view of the razorback ridge to the summit rewarded our 2.5 hours of hiking. We stayed at the summit for an hour, taking pictures and resting under the shade of a tree.

The third part of the trail is a shadeless grassland except for a couple of trees here and there where you can hide from the sun.
The third part of the trail is a shadeless grassland except for a couple of trees here and there where you can hide from the sun.
Emote emote :P
Emote emote 😛
How relieved we are when we hit the shade of a tree,
How relieved we are when we hit the shade of a tree,
Enjoying the shade near the summit of Mt Malac along with these 2 dogs of our guide Kuya Bogol.
Enjoying the shade near the summit of Mt Malac along with these 2 dogs of our guide Kuya Bogol.
Final assault to the summit of Mt. Malac
Final assault to the summit of Mt. Malac

The Dumagat Community in Sitio Quinao

At 11am, we started our descent from  the summit to the waterfalls, a supposed 1-hour hike with multiple river crossings. However, due to the intense heat, we had some lengthy breaks, as well as a 30-minute coconut merienda in Sitio Quinao; where we indulged in buko juice picked fresh from the coconut trees owned by a certain Ate Maritess for only Php20 each. We also had to pay another Php20 fee for visiting Baawan waterfalls in Sitio Quinao.

River crossings going to Baawan Falls in Sitio Quinao.
River crossings going to Baawan Falls in Sitio Quinao.
Coconut break at Sitio Quinao, around 30-45 minutes from the waterfalls
Coconut break at Sitio Quinao, around 30-45 minutes from the waterfalls
The river just 10 minutes away from Baawan falls.
The river just 10 minutes away from Baawan falls.

Baawan Waterfalls

We arrived at the waterfalls at 1:15 in the afternoon. The clear and fresh water was so inviting to our thirsty bodies that we jumped right away. Despite the summer heat, the falls and pool are not dry. The deep water was perfect for cliff jumping. There were two spots where we jumped, one on the left side of the pool, and one right beside the waterfalls, both were almost at the same level. We also hiked further up to the top of the waterfalls where yet another smaller falls form a tiny pool. After being refreshed, we set up our hammocks, squeezing in our 4 hammocks in the few tiny trees around. We managed to hang comfortably and rest for a bit before preparing for dinner. Our guide Kuya Bogol made an impressive food container out of fresh bamboos. Jay and Peter prepared for our spam, noodles, coffee and corned beef dinner while I and Paul swam some more.

You can boulder/scramble to get to this side of the waterfalls.
You can boulder/scramble the walls of the pool to get to this side of the waterfalls.
You can get to the top of Baawan waterfalls by taking the steep trail to the left of the pool.
You can get to the top of Baawan waterfalls by taking the steep trail to the left of the pool.
Resting on our hammocks to the sound of the Baawan falls in the background.
Resting on our hammocks to the sound of the Baawan falls in the background.
Oh the luxury of having hot noodle soup, spam and corned beef during camping.
Oh the luxury of having hot noodle soup, spam and corned beef when camping!

As early as 7pm, we were already at bed (i meant hammock), waiting for sleep to visit. I didn’t get a mosquito bite despite not having a bug net in my hammock. The temperature was fine at the beginning but started to get colder around midnight. Good thing we had our sarongs to serve as blankets. The moon was bright and the sky was clear, although obstructed by the trees.

Leaving baawan falls
Leaving baawan falls

Day 2 – Bye Mt Malac and Baawan Falls!

Intending to avoid the intense heat of the sun as we hike back to Puray proper, we woke up 4:30am to prepare breakfast and break camp so we can start our walk early. We started our back trail at 6:15am, stopped for yet another coconut break at Ate Maritess’ backyard, and reached back Puray at 8:30am. The kind owners of the store at the jumpoff allowed us to use their toilet to shower up at no cost. We then rode the tricycle to Eastwood UV express terminal instead of San Rafael to make sure that we get good seats in the van instead of being chance passengers in San Rafael.

Suggested Itinerary

For daytrip:
0400 – ETD Cubao to Montalban
0500 – ETA Total San Rafael. Ride tricycle
0600 – ETA Puray jumpoff. Register and secure a guide
0630 – Begin hike.
0930 – ETA Mt Malac summit. Rest. Photo Ops
1030 – Start descent
1230 – ETA Baawan waterfalls. Lunch. Swim.
1530 – ETD Baawan falls. Hike back to Puray
1730 – ETA Puray. Wash up.
1800 – Ride the tricycle to Eastwood terminal
1900 – Ride the van back to Cubao
2100 – ETA Cubao

For 2D1N 
Day 1
0400 – ETD Cubao to Montalban
0500 – ETA Total San Rafael. Ride tricycle
0600 – ETA Puray jumpoff. Register and secure a guide
0630 – Begin hike.
0930 – ETA Mt Malac summit. Rest. Photo Ops
1030 – Start descent
1230 – ETA Baawan waterfalls. Lunch. Swim. Set up hammocks. Free time.
OR hike back to the community (30-45 mins) to set up tents at your preferred time

Day 2
0430 – Call time. Prepare breakfast
0600 – ETD Baawan falls. Hike back to Puray
0800 – ETA Puray. Wash up.
0830 – Ride the tricycle to Eastwood terminal
0930 – ETA Eastwood terminal. Catch a van to Cubao
1130 – ETA Cubao

Budget

Here’s our 2D1N  budget breakdown based on four pax:
100each RT van Cubao – Montalban
700/4 = 175each RT tricycle to Puray proper
1300/4 = 325each guide fee (overnight)
50 = Puray registration fee
20 = Sitio Quinao registration fee
TOTAL: Php670 without food and water

Tips

  • Bring at least 1.5liters of water especially when hiking during summer. This will be enough until you get to the water source. If you don’t want to drink from the water source, bring more water!
  • Apply sun protection! It’s extremely hot towards the summit.
  • There is a water source along the trail of Mt. Malac which you will pass by when you go up and upon returning back. You may also ask for refill of water from where you will pay the registration fee at Sitio Quinao.
  • There is no signal at Puray jumpoff, Mt Malac summit, Baawan falls and general part of the trail.
  • No electricity to charge anything at the community. They only use solar panels.
  • There are a lot of kids in the Dumagat Community of Sitio Quinao. Feel free to carry anything to bless them with.
  • The trail is really virgin; loose tiny rocks erode with each step and can be dangerous (similar to Mt Pico de Loro’s summit, and Mt Maculot). Make sure to use hiking sandals with good traction. It’s not advisable to use shoes since there are multiple river crossings where you have no choice but to soak your feet.

Recommendations

Mt Malac is a perfect trail for those looking for a new mountain to hike, with the reward of a refreshing waterfall after. Although the trail takes 2-3 hours to the summit, 1.5 hours to the waterfalls, and 2 hours back to the jumpoff, totalling to a 5.5 to 6.5 hours of walking on sometimes uncovered path, the terrain is pretty easy and can be dared even by persistent beginners (it was even the first time for one of our companion to hike a Philippine mountain).

Credits to my hike buddies Jay, Paul and Peter for some photos. 

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