A planned day hike to Mt. Ayaas at Brgy. Mascap, Rodriguez, Rizal, Philippines turned out to be an unexpected ∼21 Km traverse twin (Mt. Sipit Ulang-Mt. Ayaas) day hike.
Our group left Quezon City at around 4:30 a.m. via van whose terminal was outside Jollibee Farmers in Cubao. We arrived at Eastwood, Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) after an hour, and rode a tricycle going to the jump off that was at the green-painted DENR office at Sitio Wawa, Brgy. San Rafael, Rodriguez. We were informed that Mt. Ayaas was no longer under the jurisdiction of Sitio Wawa and that we had to go to Brgy. Mascap, Rodriguez jump off.
We brought with us Kuya Abner, the same guy who guided us in Mt. Binacayan and Mt. Hapunang Banoi in the past two months, so we will have someone to guide us back to Sitio Wawa. We took 2 tricycle rides until the Mascap jump off. The 2nd ride took about 20 minutes.
Mt. Sipit Ulang, with altitude of 252 meters above sea level, is the lowest of the five mountains open to hikers at Mascap and Wawa areas in Rodriguez, Rizal. I speak Hiligaynon since I am from the Western Center of the Philippines. Sipit Ulang sounded familiar to me the first time I heard its name. I was wondering how come there was a mountain named with a Hiligaynon term. My guess was that early settlers, who could be the Akeanons (from Aklan, Panay island, Philippines) in the place, were responsible for it. “Sipit” means “claw” and “ulang” is a kind of shrimp with a claw (see picture below). However, what was confusing was that the english name of Mt. Sipit Ulang was Crab Mountain.
There was a group orientation at Mascap jump off. Our guide to Mt. Sipit Ulang and Mt. Ayaas was Kuya Reggie Sunio, who was obviously knowledgeable about the place. Guide fee to Mt. Sipit Ulang is P400. Additional fee, though not clear how much, was charged if the group wants a side trip to the Payaran Falls or other nearby mountain/s. From the way I look at it, the tarpaulin below implies that Brgy. Mascap loudly but at the same time silently claimed Mt. Hapunang Banoi and Mt. Pamitinan to be rightfully under their jurisdiction. One can go and get a guide from Sitio Wawa jump off though. Mascap jump off was relatively far from Mt. Pamitinan, and even Mt. Banoi. One’s energy may be drained already upon reaching ascent point of either mountains when coming from Mascap.
Mt. Sipit Ulang has two trails. The easy trail was called the Banayad Trail, while the difficult one was called the Paniki Trail. The latter was usually the one trekked when going up Sipit Ulang for traverse. There were man-made bamboo bridges to facilitate transfer between floors separated by big a gap, and bamboo ladders to ascend cave or rock walls. There were several openings inside the caves where only one person without his bag can pass through.
Portions of Paniki Trail was purposely made so hikers can see the beautiful limestone formations.
I’m afraid of falling and breaking my bones as the least that can happen to me. But when I stay calm, I usually gain my balance and confidence to be safe where it seems not.
Reaching the top of a mountain, no matter what the altitude is gives a feeling of accomplishment. Snacks including ice-cold soft drinks, water and even ice candy were available at the peak area of Mt. Sipit Ulang.
There were rock crevices to hold on to while enjoying the view and getting to the right position for a good photo. Trusty handles and foot holds seemed to be always available. One has just to calmly look for it, or better ask the guide.
0600H Arrange guide at Brgy. Mascap Jumpoff, group orientation
0630H Start of trek
0900H Mt. Sipit Ulang Peak
0945H Start descent via Banayad Trail
1130H Reach cemented road that is near trail entry of Mt. Ayaas