Pico De Loro : The Monolith
Mount Pico de Loro, a name which sexily rolls off your tongue like a place to rendezvous with a lover, is a dormant volcano located in the Cavite province on the island of Luzon, Philippines. It is also known as is also known as Mount Palay-Palay, but Pico De Loro sounds way nicer.
The mountain has a clearly distinctive monolith summit, which is also known as “Parrot’s Beak”. Rumors has it that Spanish sea-farers coined it as the pointed summit resembles the shape of a parrot’s beak from far. They used it as a signal to turn east to get to Manila Bay. According to the some locals, the monolith is part of the Batangas region while Parrot’s beak is part of Cavite. These two land masses serves as the borderline to those provinces.
More importantly, Parrot’s beak is what makes Pico De Loro such a fun trek. Climbing “Parrot’s beak” is a thrill which involves very basic abseiling or rappelling to get to the summit.
Pico De Loro is part of the Nasugbu Trilogy challenge where you can take on Mt. Pico De Loro, Mt. Talamitam and Mt. Batulao in two days! For more on how to do it, please read my other posts on Mount Talamitam and Mount Batulao!
*Update 2020: The peak of Pico De Loro is officially closed as it is unsafe! However, the normal trail is still available!
There are 2 starting points. Most blogs would suggest starting off from the DENR jump-off point from Ternate and propose these 2 route options.
1)You could go to the summit and go back down the same way
2) you could “traverse” or go down the other route to Nasugbu.
Many of them like to use the word “traverse” but I think it just means going up and down a different route. I have no idea why people will want to descend the same route when you can descend via another route.
Update: The Monolith is apparently closed indefinitely since 2016 October, not sure if it is open now. However, you can still do the trek in Pico De Loro. I think it is because there are too many people doing it.
Standard Suggested Itinerary
4:30 AM Coastal Mall Bus Terminal bound to Ternate
6:30 AM Hire a tricycle to take you to DENR Office for registration
7:00 AM ETA DENR Office for Registration. Registration Fee (Php 25.00)
8:00 AM Start Trek
10:00 AM First Summit
10:30 AM Scale the Rock Monolith. Pictures and rest
12:00 AM Descend via same-way or cross to Nasugbu
02:00 PM Take tricycle from ending point to Bus Terminal
05:00 PM ETA Manilia Actually, there is a third route
Being tourists, we went by the opposite way instead because we wanted to go to the Monolith first instead of the first summit to try to avoid the crowds. Therefore, I suggest to start from Nasugbu.
Start from there and end at DENR jump off point instead. This way, you could end up skipping paying for the registration fee (or you could pay at the end), avoid the crowds because everyone starts from the other side, as well as reach the Monolith first before the hordes of Philippines climbers swarm it. The Monolith is a small space so you can almost have it all to yourself if you go by this way.
My Suggested Itinerary
4:30 AM Coastal Mall Bus Terminal bound to Nasungbu
6:30 AM Hire a tricycle to take you to Pico-de-Loro start point (Nasungbu)
7:00 AM ETA Start Point
8:00 AM Start Trek
10:00 AM Reach Monolith.
10:30 AM Scale the Rock Monolith. Pictures and rest, move over to first summit
12:00 AM Descend via the other way to reach DENR office ( starting point) 02:00 PM Take tricycle from ending point to Bus Terminal
05:00 PM ETA Manilia
On some blogs, you will read about the new trail and the old trail. Please see this note.
Note: On February 20, 2015 the local station of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced that the Old Trail is closed effectively immediately. The official ‘New’ Trail originates from the same DENR station.
As we climbed in 2016, I guess we did the new trail. It doesn’t really affect you if you follow us and do via Nasungbu.
Why leave so early?
It is important to leave early because traffic in Manila is notorious. You will wish to skip the jams in the early morning especially when people go to work, and if on weekends, when they are driving out of Manila. Starting early is also good because the weather is better and it is not so hot. Plus, you reach back in Manila and is still able to enjoy going around at night.
Bus from Coast Mall to Ternate Cavite : 82 Php, or ~120php if you go to Nasungbu. Trike/Tricycle Fare from drop point off to DENR point : 200-250php per tricycle. Registration Fee : Php25 Parking Fee : Php50 (if you brought your own vehicle)
Trike from Nasugbu Highway to Nasugbu Terminal: ~300php to 350php
Bus from Nasugbu to Manila Pasay: 155php
What to bring :
Please wear long sleeves as it is quite grassy so it might annoy you. Shoes with good grip is recommended. As the trail is really easy, sport shoes are fine and a small day pack is enough. Bring water along for the whole journey as there are no water stops along the way. Bring some snacks to picnic at the summit/monolith! Sunglasses and sunblock is recommended as the summit and monolith points are totally not sheltered.
How to get there
Getting to Mt.Palay Palay from Metro Manila
There are 2 jump-off points and ways to get to Mount Pico de Loro. Getting there depends on where you wish to start.
1. Ternate Highway in Cavite
The most commonly suggested way is from Coastal Mall to Ternate. You will see it in 99% of the blogs.
There are several bus companies that can take you from Manila to Cavite. You can go to Lawton (Liwasang Bonifacio) or to the Provincial Bus Terminal at Coastal Mall, Baclaran.
Saulog Bus Lines – +63(46)431-1753
Erjohn & Almark Transit Corporation – +63(46)872-1154
San Agustin Transport Service Corp – +63(2)8745563
Bus Fares is around Php82.00.
Most people head to the provincial bus terminal at Coastal Mall, Baclaran. Once there, look for buses bound for Ternate or Maragondon Cavite, or you could simply ask around and tell the friendly bus driver or operator that you are headed to Pico De Loro. The people in Philippines are really friendly and helpful. They will most likely keep an eye out for you and let you know when it is your stop. The journey takes around 1.5h to 2 hours.
The bus will drop you off either at the Terminal along Ligaya Drive in Ternate, Cavite or at the Ternate terminal located at the town.
Take a tricycle to DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) office to pay the registration fee.
The fare is around Php100.00 per person and takes 20 to 30 minutes, depends on the speed of the tricycle.
2. Nasugbu in Batangas =>Recommended!
There are numerous bus terminals around Metro Manila that can take you to Nasugbu. Ask your hotel/accommodation person to help you, or just head to Coastal Mall too.
The bus fare is slightly more expensive, at around Php120.00 per person and takes around 2+ hours, depending on traffic. Same thing as above, ask the friendly people around and say you wish to go to Pico De Loro and they will usually help you.
You should be dropped off at the bus terminal in Nasugbu town. From there, hire a tricycle to take you to Pico de Loro. MSDC Security Force Training Ground in Brgy. Papay, Nasugbu. It’s the drop-off to Mt. Pico de Loro. Fare is around Php150.00 per person and around 30-45 minutes. Enjoy the sunrise and the wind as it goes past the paddy fields.
There are no signs or anything in the location, so ask anyone or any vendors where you can register before the trek. Registration is at one of the stores located near the rest room. Registration is Php25.00.
Tip : The trike/tricycle prices different greatly, depending on the number of people and how hard you negotiate. It can go from 100php per person for an half h ride, to 300php. A reasonable rate is around 250 php per tricycle for the trip to DENR.
The Trek : From Nasungbu to DENR
This is the reverse route. If you wish to know the route from DENR to Nasungbu, just read this post backwards. I kid, but on a serious note, just read the 18265639829 Philippines blogs (seriously, there are a lot) or any other tourist blogs about it.
You will see some odd huts, just follow the trail onwards. It starts off grassy, with branches. The trek from Nasungbu is apparently steeper and shorter. That is even better as you will reach the Monolith earlier. The trek is pretty straight forward.
You will go through some gradual incline of dry grass and trees. The path is quite clear through the forest as seen in the pictures. It is a nice trek through the forest. At times, it feels as if the forest is opening a path for you into a magical world ahead.
The ascent will start to be a lot steeper than usual. Once you see the array of trees welcoming your ascent, you know you are close.
Soon, you will go past some clearings where you can see the Parrot’s beak from afar. You should reach the Monolith in around 1.5h to 2h.
At the Monolith, this is where the fun starts. On a rainy day, do not attempt to scale the Rock monolith. The rope and the pass are slippery when wet, the rock wall at the back is 90 degrees with only a room for one person at a time.
Scaling the Rock Monolith is only for those confident in their physical prowess; if you have a fear of heights, scaling it will most likely let conquer your fear of heights.
It seems easy enough that so many people have climbed it, without experience and proper shoes. However, even as an experience hiker, the Monolith was pretty exciting. It is very doable for a beginner, but you will need some guts and courage. The pathway to the rope section is slanted, and if you fall off, you will end up in a deep ravine.
Note : The following pictures were taken on our way down.
After which, you will need to hold on to the rope and climb yourself up. It is not particularly difficult, but as the space is narrow and the thought of swinging off and slipping into your death is ever present in your mind. Haul yourself up with steady steps, it is honestly just a few steps. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a spectacular and unblocked view of the surrounding region.
Tip : You could get a friend to head to the summit across and take a picture of the full size of the Monolith and you from across. Alternatively, sometimes there are guides or random trekkers who can also help to take a picture for you for a small fee.
Relax at the top of the Monolith and enjoy the peace (assuming you follow my route). The crowd should be just at the other peak and taking lots of pictures. You will be able to see them from here. Enjoy it while it last because hordes of them like the walking dead will come armed with selfie sticks.
Once you feel it is too crowded, head over to the summit across. It is better to start going down before they clog up the rope section too! Going down might seem scary, but once you have the experience, it becomes easier.
Mt Palay Palay summit is bare and steep grassland. Bring sun protection and umbrellas on a sunny day.
From the peak, you can enjoy a 360 degree view of neighboring provinces like Batangas and Cavite – assuming that the fog surrounding the mountain doesn’t become too thick.
Head down to the DENR and walk past the many groups of hikers still hiking up. The route is less steep and very gradual downwards.
You will end up at campsite 1 where you can buy some water, and finally at DENR(traditional starting point).
It takes around an hour +. There are souvenirs, drinks and food you can purchase here if you feel like you deserve to spend money after hiking. The items here are slightly more costly. You can strut past the registration book, they might ask you to register the end of your trek (but no cost involved). Congratulations! You have completed Pico De Loro!
To get back, you can take tricycle and bus back to Manila (same way you came). Many locals like to visit the Kaybiang Tunnel, which is on the way from Nasungbu to DENR in Ternate Cavite. You should be back in Manila by the evening!
Tip : The trail is really easy. There is need to pay or hire a guide (unless you really want to, or you wish to be really safe at the Monolith). There are also many other groups around with guides so it will be fine. Note : I have read somewhere that Mt Palay Palay has an extremely diverse flora and fauna. Apparently, hunters set up traps for local birds and sell their captures to interested visitors. This is illegal and not to be encouraged, please do not buy or bring home any of these endemic animals captured in the wild. Note 2 : DENR has a plan of opening a new trail going to the waterfalls.
Here are some other links to read :