Mt. Balingkilat (Mountain of Thunder) — Travel Guide

I’ve always wanted to climb Mt. Balingkilat and spend a night on its summit, so me and my friends went to experience this mountain.

Mt. Balingkilat is a well-known mountain for most hikers. Due to it’s proximity from Manila plus the view and experience it offers to its visitors, no wonder it is one of the most climbed mountains in Zambales.

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Background

The name Balingkilat is derived from the native Aeta language which means Mountain of Thunder. Mt. Balingkilat is located in the province of Zambales, which main jump off point is at Brgy. Cawag, Subic, Zambales. It stands at a towering height of 1,100+ meters above sea level. It is one of the most hiked mountains in Zambales and is popular to day hikers.


Preparation

Before you can go and hike Mt. Balingkilat, you need to let the Chieftain of Brgy. Cawag know that you are planning to hike the mountain. He will be the one who will assign your guide and transportation if you don’t have your own vehicle. He will also serves as your main local contact whom you can ask regarding the hike.

Once you’re done coordinating with the Chieftain, it is now time to prepared yourselves. If this will be your first major hike, it best if you will climb at least two minor mountains in order to prepare your body for a strenuous major hike.

On the day of your climb, you are required to drop by the Subic Fire Rescue — SPOSO, near the public market, to have you names registered and your photos taken. It is important that you’ve coordinated with the locals/chieftain of Brgy. Cawag because they’ll be getting the name of your guide too.


The Hike

When hiking Mt. Balingkilat, you’ll need to consider the time when you will start your hike, and the duration of the trek/climb from jump off point to the summit or camp site. In our case, we started at exactly 10AM, when the sun is bright and shining hot. We really don’t have other choice but to start at that time because we want to reach the campsite before dawn.

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The first part of the hike will just be a gradual trek going to the first and only water source, the Kawayanan area. It took us one and a half hour going to the first water source, and from here we took our lunch, drank as much water as we can, took a little rest, and then started the second part of the trek, a moderate to hard assault going to the summit. We we’re a little slow in this part, aside from it is an assault trek, the heat of the sun affected our speed because it is already 12PM.

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We trekked for almost 3 hours to reach the last section of the hike to summit. This last section is the most technical part of the trail, extra precautions is required as you will be scrambling through the edge with rocks and boulders with high steps. You might also do some face-the-walls in some parts of this section.

At around 6PM we reached the camp site, which is and open area 15 minutes from the summit. We’ve had a hard time setting up our tents because of the strong winds blowing from every direction. There’s little to no shade for setting up tents in the area.

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After setting up the tents, we started preparing our meal for the night, eat, and then rest for the night. I never had the chance to go out of the tent for star gazing because the wind is so strong and cold that I chose to just sleep inside my tent. But as per my friend who went out that night, the sky was clear and there are plenty of stars that night. Next time, I will be getting out of my tent regardless of the cold. 😛

We woke up at around 6AM, prepared our breakfast, cleaned our camp, and then proceed to the summit. From the summit, you’ll see a 360 view of the Zambales and the West Philippine Sea. You will also see the Talisayen Cove and near by islands. The sunrise view is also to die for, offering you the view of Subic during sunrise.

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At around 9AM, we started our trek back to the jump off point. We are bit faster this time since there will be less assault this time, but we are still careful getting down the technical sections of the trail. Same as day one, our trek back to summit is also hot as hell, with little water in our bottles, we pushed through fast going to the water source.

We reached the jump off point past 2PM, where two our friends are already resting, waiting for us. We also took a rest, washed up, and then bounce out back to Manila by 4PM.


Summit Camp Itinerary (Back Trail)

Day 1

02:30 AM — Meet up Victory Liner Cubao
03:00 AM — ETD to Subic, Zambales
06:30 AM — ETA to Subic, Zambales
07:00 AM — ETA to Subic Market, register at SPOSO, buy supplies.
08:30 AM — ETA Resettlement, Brgy. Cawag. JOP, final preparation
10:00 AM — Start trek
11:30 AM — You’ll be reaching the first and final water source, the Kawayanan
03:00 PM — Start of the final assault section
06:00 PM — Reach summit camp site, set camp, prepare dinner, rest
09:00 PM — Lights Out

Day 2

06:00 AM — Wake Up, prepare breakfast, break-camp
08:00 AM — Summit trek
09:30 AM — Start descent
12:30 NN — Arrive at the Kawayanan (Water Source)
02:30 PM — Arrive at the Jump-off-point, rest, wash, up
04:00 PM — Back to MNL
08:00 PM — ETA to MNL

Nagsasa Cove Camp Itinerary (Traverse)

Day 1

01:30 AM — Meet up Victory Liner Cubao
02:00 AM — ETD to Subic, Zambales
04:30 AM — ETA to Subic, Zambales
05:00 AM — ETA to Subic Market, register at SPOSO, buy supplies.
05:30 AM — ETA Resettlement, Brgy. Cawag. JOP, final preparation
06:00 AM — Start trek
07:30 AM — You’ll be reaching the first and final water source, the Kawayanan
11:00 AM — Start of the final assault section,
11:30 AM — Summit, Lunch, traverse to Nagsasa Cove
06:00 PM — Reach Nagsasa Cover, set camp, rest, prepare dinner
09:00 PM — Lights out

Day 2

06:00 AM — Wake Up, prepare breakfast, break-camp
07:00 AM — Beach bum
09:30 AM — Free Time/Island hopping
11:30 AM — Break camp, prepare to get to Pundaquit via chartered boat.
01:30 PM — Arrive to Pundaquit
04:00 PM — Back to MNL
08:00 PM — ETA to MNL

NOTE: This itinerary are estimated times only and some parts are based on our own experience. This itinerary might change depending on your meet up schedule, pacing, and acts of nature.


Breakdown of Expenses

Php 226/pax — Victory Liner Cubao to Olongapo (via San Fernando)
Php 285/pax — Victory Liner Cubao to Olongapo (via SCTEX)
Php 20/pax — Olongapo to Subic PNP/Market
Php 100/pax — Subic PNP/Market to Jump Off Point
Php 2,000/7 pax — Guide Fee
Php 60/pax — Registration Fee
Php 500/pax — Food allowance
Php 2,500/7 pax — Boat Fee

Safe budget for 7 people back trail: Php 2,000
Safe budget for 7 people traverse to Nagsasa Cover: Php 2,500


Important Contact Numbers

Sir Jimmy Ablong (Brgy. Cawag) — 0921 954 3215
Subic Fire Rescue — 0939 443 4776


Conclusion

Mt. Balingkilat is a great mountain for both experienced hikers and to those who are looking for a nice hiking challenge. Just be sure that you are prepared to conquer and enjoy hiking this mountain. Bring enough water that will suffice your needs the whole duration of your hike, at least 2L per person is advised. Everything your bring up to the mountain must also come down with you. leave no trash and trace.

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How To Photograph The Milky Way

Ever dream of taking a photo of the milky way but you don’t know where to start? In this article, I will show you the easiest step on how you can capture the beauty of the stars, especially, the Milky Way.

The Lover's Tree

First off, you must know the basics of photography, how the exposure triangle works (shutter speed, ISO, aperture).

What is the exposure triangle?

It is a common way of associating the three variables that determine the exposure of a photograph: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. One must balance all three of these to achieve a desired result, an adjustment of one requiring adjustments of at least one of the others.

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  • Shutter Speed: the amount of time your camera shutter is open.
  • ISO: the sensitivity of your camera sensor
  • Aperture: the opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. The wider the opening, the larger amount of light comes in.

Things you need:

  • Camera
  • Wide lens with at least f/3.5 aperture
  • Tripod
  • Intervalometer/Shutter Remote
  • Flashlight

Planning: When and Where to Shoot

  • There are some things you need to consider in order to photograph the stars.
  • A place where there is less to zero light pollution.
  • A day when. the moon sets early, or a day that is set to have a new moon.
  • Best time to shoot Milky Way is between the months of March and October, this is when it shines the brightest and most visible.

Step 1: Test Shot

Set your camera settings to the following values:

  • ISO: 2000
  • Aperture: 2.8 (or the wider your camera can)
  • Shutter speed: Compute your camera shutter speed by dividing 500 by the focal length of your lens. Example: 500/18mm = 27.xx secs.

Once you’ve set your camera settings, focus on a distant light or set your lens focus to infinity. One technique I am doing is that I ask my friend to go few meters away from the camera and hold a flashlight and then I will focus at him/her. Once I am satisfied with the sharpness of the focus, I set my camera to manual to avoid the settings to be altered. You should also set your white balance into fix value, you can always change it in post. Also, you should always shoot in RAW so it is easier for you to adjust all the values and information stored by your camera.

Step 2.0: Shooting the Milky Way

Now that you’ve set your camera settings, you can now photograph the Milky Way. You can use a star tracker app like Stellarium in order to determine the position of the Milky Way and what time it will rise.

milky way
The Billion Star Hotel

Step 2.1: Shooting Timelapse

In order to shoot a star timelapse, you need to have a shutter remote or intervalometer so you can control you camera shutter without moving or shaking the camera. An intervalometer can also help set the interval and number of shots of your camera without needing to monitor it every shot.

Star Trails
My first attempt doing a star trail timelapse. 🙂 100 photos stacked using StarStax app.

In my case, I am using a Fujifilm X-T10 with 18-55mm f/2.8 lens, which has a built-in intervalometer. In order to get your desired output, you should remember that 1 second is equals to 24 still photos. So if you are planning to have a 5 second video timelapse, you should shoot the milky way 120 times.

1 second = 24 photos

Step 3.0: Post-processing Your Milky Way Shot

There are a lot of tools you can use to post-process your photos, in my case, I’ll be using Adobe Lightroom because I find it easy to adjust settings and color correct the images. If you are into presets, you can easily apply it to your photos and adjust it to your liking.

Under the cosmos. #astrophotography #milkyway #camping

A post shared by Paolo Imbag ?? (@paoloimbag) on

The main variables I adjust when editing a milky way shot is just the basic stuff:

  • White balance
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance)
  • Clarity
  • Blacks & Whites
  • Highlights & Shadows

Once I am satisfied with my adjustments, I will apply my final touches and share it on the internet. 😛

Step 3.1: Creating a Timelapse Video

Assuming that you have post process every photo in your timelapse, you can now open your video editing software (in my case, it’s Adobe Premiere Pro), and import the first photo. Don’t forget to import it as an image sequence so your software knows that it is a video clip/timelapse. By default, it is set to 25fps.

Apply all the necessary adjustments you need and then export your clip at 24fps. 🙂

Step 3.2: Stacking Your Images (Star Trails)

This one is super easy. You just have to download a star stacker app caller StarStax, then drag and drop your timelapse sequence to the app, then execute the process. Once it’s done processing your star trail, you can now export it to your computer and share it to your friends.

star stax milky way star trails
star stax milky way star trails

Download the StarStax App here.


So there you have it! If ever you are confused with the steps I listed above, or have any question regarding astrophotography, don’t hesitate to message me on facebook. 🙂

Follow me on instagram: @paoloimbag and @itineraryph