A ROAD TRIP TO TIRAD PASS AND MOUNT TIMBAC
November 2009

Gregorio del Pilar. The starting point for a trip to Tirad Pass is Candon, Ilocos Sur. After 30 minutes on good roads to Salcedo, a rough road leads to Gregorio del Pilar town in about 1.5 hours. The first part of the road after Salcedo follows the bed of the Patupec River and requires twelve river crossings. A 4-wheel-drive vehicle with relatively high clearance is required as the depth reaches up to two feet in some places. The river is shallower and the road easier to navigate in summer. The second part of the road meanders through pretty rice terraces, with a few more minor river crossings. Tirad
Waterfall along the way
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Crossing the Patupec River
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Tirad Pass. After reaching Gregorio del Pilar, we proceeded to Barangay Mabatano (elevation 470m) on a very steep road. This is the jump-off for the hike to the Gregorio del Pilar Shrine (elevation 950m). The hike takes about 2 hours on a well-marked trail. The views along the trail are superb. The shrine consists of a statue of del Pilar on a horse, and several historical markers describing events of the Battle of Tirad Pass where del Pilar and his troops stopped the American forces long enough to enable Aguinaldo to escape to Lepanto, and where del Pilar was killed on 2 December 1899. The shrine is actually not at the Tirad Pass itself which is further up at an elevation of 1312m. Not to be missed is the Sniper’s Knoll, the site where an American sniper shot del Pilar from a distance of about 300 meters. This is indicated by a sign along the trail.Tirad
TiradScene along the road to Gregorio del Pilar
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The view from the Shrine
TiradThe trail to the Shrine
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The Gregorio del Pilar Shrine at Tirad Pass
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TiradHistorical markers

Candon. The best place to sleep in Candon is probably the Candon Beach Resort, about 5 minutes from the center (from South turn left at Jolibee, then straight on), but it is rather run down and nothing to write home about (unless you enjoy a very loud karaoke on the beach). In Candon, I highly recommend the food at the surprising Café Bossa, an old house converted into a restaurant in a quiet street near the center (from South turn right at BDO, then first right, it is 100m away on the left side). Excellent food in a pleasant atmosphere.Tirad

Bessang Pass. From Candon we proceeded to Tagudin, Suyo, Cervantes, Abatan and Mount Data. The road from Suyo to Cervantes has been recently cemented and is in perfect condition. The views along the road are stunningly beautiful. The road passes though Bessang Pass (1490m) which was the site of a battle between Japanese and American forces on 14 June 1945. A historical marker located in a small park at the pass describes the events. The road from Cervantes to Abatan was being cemented when we were there and posters indicated a completion date of May 2010 (although I doubt that this will be met). The rooms at the Mount Data Hotel are nice and the fireplace a great place to relax. The hotel makes an enjoyable stopover in a trip to the Cordilleras. The temperature went down to 8 degrees that night, and the rooms are not heated. Bring warm clothes if you plan to stay there!
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The historical monument at Bessang Pass
TiradLooking towards Bessang Pass
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The road from Bessang Pass to Cervantes
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The view from Bessang Pass looking East
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Mount Data Hotel

Mount Timbac. To go to Mount Timbac, we took a narrow and very steep cemented road on the left (coming from the North) on the Halsema Highway, about 12 km south of Sinipsip. Coming from the South, it is a few kms after the “highest point of the Philippine highway system”. At the junction to Timbac there is a sign that says “Welcome to Mongoto Elementary School”. After about 2 km we reached the Mongoto school building in Timbac (the road continues to the town of Kabayan and the site of the famous mummies). About 200 meters after the school, we took a cemented road on the right. At the end of that road, it is about 15 minutes’ walk to the top of Mt. Timbac (2730m), the ninth highest in the Philippines and the third highest in Luzon. No wilderness here, the mountain is covered with vegetable patches up to the very top, there are many people and houses around, and the summit is the site of a cross, a grotto, and several telecom antennas. Nevertheless, the 360-degree views are magnificent, right at the center of the Cordillera range.Timbac
The narrow road to Mt. Timbac
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View from the trail to the summit of Mt. Timbac 
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Mount Pulag seen from the summit
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The summit of Mount Timbac (2730m)
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Crosses near the summit
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Looking North from the summit
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Looking South from the summit

Baguio. The Bencab Museum at kilometer 6 Asin Road in Baguio is well worth a visit (although the food at the restaurant is not). Finally, a last word to recommend the food and ambiance at the atmospheric Bliss vegetarian restaurant in Baguio, located in the Elizabeth Hotel.

Itinerary:  
Day 1: Manila-Candon  
Day 2: Candon-Salcedo-Gregorio del Pilar-Tirad Pass and back
Day 3: Candon-Tagudin-Suyo-Bessang Pass-Cervantes-Abatan-Mount Data
Day 4: Mount Data-Mount Timbac-Baguio
Day 5: Baguio-Manila               
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Sunset in Candon

Christian Perez
Muntinlupa City