Discovering some things new in popular Laiya, San Juan, Batangas

Summit view (Photo by Author)

By Lovel Aniag

New trail: Mt. Hugom
Just when you thought you knew everything about someone, they surprise you. It’s the same thing with a destination.
Laiya in San Juan, Batangas is a popular spot for quick getaways because of its proximity to Manila. While Laiya is more popular for its beaches, hikers also go here for Mt. Daguldol, and on our recent escapade, we discovered a new mountain trail: Mt. Hugom.

Our discovery of Mt. Hugom was by accident. We had originally planned to join a climb-for-a-cause hike in Rizal but the waiting time took too long. Not wanting to waste our day, my friend and I decided to just back out and do our own thing.

Fortunately, we were already in Cubao, where provincial buses abound. With no plan, no itinerary, and not a lot of money (we only have PHP 1,600 or $ 35 between the two of us), we opted to go to Batangas, the land of bundok (mountains) and dagat (beaches), particularly in Laiya.

We left Cubao at around 6:30 a.m. and arrived in San Juan at around 9 a.m. While in transit, I was googling for mountains we can hike in the area and found Mt. Daguldol located in Barangay Hugom, which was about 30-45 minutes away from San Juan town proper via jeepney.

Arriving in Barangay Hugom, we were directed to a carinderia (eatery), where we had to log in and pay environmental fee. Kuya Martin was assigned to us as guide, and off we went.

Walking toward the jump off point, my friend and I both still assumed that we were hiking Mt. Daguldol until Kuya Martin pointed out a separate registration area for the said mountain. He said that Mt. Hugom was only opened recently (earliest online article about the mountain was in December 2015). He was part of the group that established the trail and has been guiding hikers for both Dagulgol and Hugom for almost 20 years.

At 570 MASL, Mt. Hugom is a relatively short hike, approximately 3-4 hours at a steady pace. But don’t underestimate — ¾ of the trail are assaults that Kuya Martin and his team placed ropes and carved out steps for hikers to use.

The mountain also features several paths from thickly forested trails, to rocky assaults and even a patch of cogon grassland. The thick forest provided us with shade from the immense heat of the sun. Halfway through the trail is a patch of grassland that offers a panoramic view of the beaches of Laiya, while the final part of the hike has a 75-degree rocky assault.

While Mt. Daguldol has a higher elevation at 672 MASL, the summit of Mt.Hugom is considered more beautiful, offering an unobstructed view of Laiya beach and nearby mountains.

Camping in the mountain is not discouraged. But our guide suggests hikers do a combination hike of Daguldol and Hugom, since there is no water source in the latter.

New cafe: The Wandering Cup
After conquering Mt. Hugom, we decided to do a side trip to Laiya beach. On our way, we saw a very hip hut with several pillowed swings up front. The swings beckoned for us to stop by and rest for a bit.

Like Mt. Hugom, The Wandering Cup is also a newly opened outdoor café, offering fresh fruit shakes, spiked coffees and freshly brewed teas. At PHP 55 ($1.17) for a large cup, the fresh fruit shakes we ordered were a cheap but deliciously refreshing treat!

The owners themselves were there, entertaining customers. I had a little chat with them and found out that they are proud locals of Batangas. They wanted to bring home the traveler culture that has been gaining fame in the beaches of La Union and Baler, while promoting the famous Kapeng Barako of the province. They plan to offer pastries, desserts and pastas in the future. A perfect hang out place for carbo-loading and freshening up after a hike!
Laiya is definitely becoming a thriving traveler destination complete with mountains to conquer, beaches to swim in and foodie places to pig out. It was one of the most random and enjoyable daytrips I’ve ever done.

How to get there:
From Cubao, take a bus bound for San Juan – PHP 200 (estimate)
From San Juan, ask around for the terminal with jeepneys going to Brgy. Hugom – PHP 30
The jeepney will drop you off in front of the registration area of Mt. Hugom

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