Mt Arayat is the most prominent landmark; looming like a castle over the province of Pampanga and the rest of Central Luzon with her 1026 MASL elevation. The home of legendary Mariang Sinukuan and a place well known for avid outdoorsmen.
We started our hike at 0500hrs. With the mountain up north, the city on my south and the sun ready to explode on my east. Given that this is my first major hike it felt rather different from my previous hikes, a kaleidoscope of feelings does haunts me. I’m excited for the adventure, yet afraid that the mosquitoes will disappoint me, and the fear that maybe I’m not yet ready for this challenge with a constant question to whispering in my ears saying -Did you prepare well enough?
Our adventure runs on a new trail (The Arayat Loop) a 14 km trail that runs to Pinnacle Peak, South Peak, White Rock and reverse to the old trail. Given that this is my first major hike, it is definitely more challenging and technical with rope segments, knife-edge trails, slippery mossed-rocks, and loose boulders that might collapse if stepped upon without precaution. Some sections has loose foamy grounds (mixture of leaves and dirt) that looks stable but very dangerous as it might cause someone to fell on the cliff. The cliffs does pose a threat one may inflict a serious injury if not fatal.
The Pinnacle Peak
The base of the mountain is filled with Ipil-ipil trees and charcoal pits are common. most of the locals here rely on charcoal as a source of income aside from farming in the plains below. The distinct smell of goat manure, rotting tree trunks fills the air. The geckos and the song of the birds as well as the bees that browse the atmosphere gives the whole idea that you are really away from the city.
It took around 3 hours to reach Pinnacle through the new trail that was opened. The hike was rather easy at this point as the assaults are well manageable.
The Monkey Trail to South Peak
Though going to Pinnacle is an easy trek the way to South Peak serves the opposite. The Monkey Trail is the toughest part of the loop as it starts with a steep descend and 80-85% of the trail is knife-edge straight to a cliff. One must be very careful as the trail contains cavities that might collapse, unstable rocks and boulders that threatens the hiker and the ones following below. The trail is still adjusting to accommodate visitors.
The White Rock and The Legend of Sinukuan
The White Rock the home of legendary mountain fairy Mariang Sinukuan. The story was passed down mainly through the word of tongue though written literature also gives contribution. It was said that Mariang Sinukuan merged several mountains into one to be her home. She constantly gives produce of the forest to the doorsteps of the villagers before the break of dawn during times of need. Legend says that a group of men entered the mountain to find her home and when they found it they asked Maria for fruits and animals. Mariang Sinukuan gladly gave what is wanted with a condition not to steal on their way home down the mountain, greed seeped-in and they succumb to the temptation to gather more than what was given reasoning that the fairy won’t notice and will never know. On their way their produce turned to rocks and Mariang Sinukuan cursed them and turned them into swines. That said it is now up to you to judge if Mariang Sinukuan is a noble mountain fairy or a wicked sorceress making baits to exercise her dark magic.
The Unfinished Business
Completing the Arayat Loop is my Major Birth, as the quote goes “We never conquer a mountain, the mountain conquers our hearts”. I will be back when Quad-Peak traverse opens its doors, a new trail to visit a new challenge to overcome.
How to Get Here:
- Board a bus from Cubao to SM Pampanga- fare is around 250-300 PHP
- Take a jeepney from SM Pampanga to Puregold Arayat- 30 PHP
- Tricycle to jump-off (San Juan Baño, Arayat jump-off) 100 PHP good for 4 persons
Transportation is scarce and usually 6:00 pm is the last trip of tricycles from jump-off.
Guide Fee 1500 good for 7 persons maximum.
There is no water source on the trail and mosquitoes are prevalent specially during rainy season.
Some groups claim the difficulty level of the trail is 7/9, however as our group’s assessment we gave it a 6/9 difficulty rating.
Mt. Arayat is an extinct stratovolcano with no recorded eruption history.