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The Palanan Trails
Province:  Isabela
(located in the vicinity of Palanan Centro)
Listed in Gallery:   Hiking Trail

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The Aguinaldo Trail, Bisag Trail and Carabao Trail from San Mariano to Palanan, Isabela

  • 3-5 days hiking. Mostly river trekking, except the Bisag Trail.
  • No difficult spots on the trail, which require climbing and would be risky without climbing gear.
  • Half of the little remaining old-growth forest in Luzon island is located in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, which will be crossed by foot.
  • Has historical background: The Aguinaldo Trail was the last leg of Aguinaldo"s escape from the Americans, which was a hike throughout Luzon. A monument can be visited in Palanan Centro.
  • The Aguinaldo Trail is mostly river trekking, which is slow, painstaking, prone to slipping, but not exhausting. The Carabao Trail is the easiest, because half of it is an old logging road and half river trekking, but a low water level is needed, because river trekking is on a big river throughout. The Bisag Trail is the most exhausting and only for people, who want to challenge themselves, because instead of river trekking three peaks have to be overcome with steep trails.

How to get there from Manila:

If no own transportation available, take an overnight sleeper bus Florida-Liner (very cold inside, because of extreme air-condition bring warm clothes, but very comfortable) and alight in the Cagayan Valley after Cauayan, Isabela at the junction to San Mariano, which will be early in the morning. Proceed via Jeepney to San Mariano town center, where also provisions can be bought. Guides and porters can be hired in the villages near the jump-off points for hiking. Most knowledgeable are the Agta indigenous people living in the area, who also often guide locals.

If go first to Palanan you can fly from Cauayan, Isabela with Cyclone Airways or go by bus from Manila to Cabanatuan, Cabanatuan - Baler, Baler - Dilasag and Dilasag - Palanan via Lancha (big outrigger boat).

The weather

Season is from March to September with July and August as the best month in the time when no typhoons are striking. The climate is officially not pronounced but the water level of the rivers is clearly lower in these month and the locals consider these month also as dry season.

Do not try to go there when the rivers are flooded !!! Many people die every year crossing deceiving rivers in the Philippines, which are one day knee deep and after heavy rain not passable when walking carrying a deadly current !!! You might get stranded for some days in the middle of the Mountain Range when the rivers are high and run out of food. Only the guides can tell if a river is passable or not, if you are not an expert. The unpredictable rivers are the most dangerous part in the hike. To bring inflatable truck interiors is advisable, if you want to enhance the ability to cross rivers and add safety.

Misc. information

Cooking gas stoves are not necessary as the locals especially the Agta can make fire even under heavy rain under the canvass, although a small bottle of gasoline for emergencies is advisable. The canvasses of thin "sacko bag" material are a popular gift to the Agta. If the weather is good the Agta can spear fish viand for you while you do river trekking on the Dipadian River when hiking the Carabao Trail. This can be eel and other tasty fish. On the other trails the possibility to obtain fish is rather small.

Guides as of 2008 can be hired for around the agricultural minimum wage of 250 Php/day and above, depending on your budget, it is highly negotiable. The guides can do the trip in 2 days going back, which has to be added then depending on the arrangement. The stated rate is above what most other livelihood activities yield and the locals consider it as easy work. The locals can carry up to 20-30 kg per head and are still faster than a normal hiker. Hiring many guides adds security, as they can carry injured or sick persons or if not possible can get help quickly, while another guide stays behind with the patient.

NPA activity is close to zero in the areas were the trails passes observed in 2007 and 2008.

When river trekking the trick is to step always on the edges of the stones for added grip.

For people with feet prone to catch athletes foot like me, this becomes a big problem when river trekking, especially with closed shoes and socks. After two days with constantly wet feet, the fungus is spreading all over the foot and it can become very painful with feet starting to swell and pain after every step. As long as the feet get wet every day no chance of curing is in sight. Open shoes like sandals are preferable.

The GPX-File

Legend for the waypoint data (map datum WGS84)   [download the actual file]

EofEnd of road
R, Rivriver
Cpossible to camp
C!good camping location
Snsnorkeling location coral reefs
CFcell fone signal available

I logged the trail to the data card of a Garmin 60CSx. I combined the daily files to one track for the whole hike. As that GPS cannot process tracks with more than 500 points per track, I filtered the track down to fit that limitation into two tracks per trail, which the hiker can download to the GPS together with the waypoint data.

The camp locations are all along the rivers with different comfort from small space with big stones causing pain for the unexposed to almost beach like situations with sand. There are numerous camp locations allowing a flexible schedule for hiking.

Waypoint narrative by: Martin_Pachner 2009



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