Jungle trekking with Gil

banaue_083.jpgRain forest – jungle trekking

Gil is a jungle hunter in the high mountain regions of the Cordillera Mountain Province in the Philippines. He hunts when he is not tending his terraced rice fields and taking care of his family.

To see some unspoiled tropical rainforest, Gil is the man to see. He flows through the jungle like it’s his backyard but even he ran into problems with the poison leaves of the luba plant.

Cordillera Rainforest

Climbing through the jungles high above the rice terraces in the Cordilleras in the mountain province of the Philippines is truly amazing.

The vegetation is very thick and there are no villages to provide food or shelter.

The canopy is so dense that you really can’t see the surrounding mountains except through the occasional breaks in the forest.

banaue_046.jpg Even if you are an experienced trekker it would be a bad call to set off on your own. There is just too much weird stuff to be aware of.

The luba plant has some type of toxin in it’s leaves that will leave you scratching for a week. That is if you brush against the mild variety. Of the 3 different types, the one with the small leaves will leave you scratching for a month.

banaue_079.jpgAnother annoyance is the leaches or “matok” that are constantly sticking to your ankles.

They really don’t bother me as much as mosquitoes but there aren’t many “lamok” up there.

The leaches are a bigger problem after a rain but you just stop every hundred meters or so for a quick check and pull them off.

There are some shallow undercuts in the cliffs that you can take refuge in at night.

Some people might not care for that but there are no villages there to offer a roof over your head so you just make a camp in the jungle.

It’s not too bad but it gets dark early and will probably rain at night. It it’s a good idea to bring along a blanket or jacket and try to have all your clothes dried by the campfire before you retire. It gets chilly at night.

There were signs that the Gaang tribe from over the mountains had been through recently.  The boys figured that they scared away a lot of the game and fish and were disappointed with the small catch.

Usually they get a few fresh water eels but were only able to round up 10 frogs.

banaue_081.jpg The frog (tukak) are eaten whole and the bones spit out. These frogs really look comfortable bobbing around in that pot of boiling water.

We also took along onions and rice, but I packed along 16 oranges and a large bottle of water. A half liter bottle is more than enough because you can fill it along the way. No need torturing yourself unnecessarily. It is hard work hiking there.

The pic below is mountain tea.

banaue_090.jpgWe saw one mamanok, or mountain chicken but Gil couldn’t get a clean shot. The bird is smaller than a domestic chicken and has black feet.

The boys also set a lot of snares along the trails for anything tat comes along. I accidentally tripped 2 of them because they were pretty well camoflouged.

Gil caught a black weasel “mutit” in one of the traps but it had gone undetected for too long and was spoiled. Francis was very disappointed because he said that they are particularly delicious.

banaue_062.jpgThe root of the rattan is a local favorite and cut into lengths that resemble lumpia and then boiled.

There are two types, the narrower one “nachaut” is more bitter and the ratan is used for roof ties.

The thicker one or “toron” has a better taste and it’s rattan is more flexible and is used for weaving baskets and backpacks.

banaue_056.jpg The lad in the above photo is peeling off the outer coverings which are covered with thistles and Gil has a coil of toron to bring home to make a basket with.

Gil was looking for sings of wild boar and went through a thick stand of luba that got him on the arms and in the eye but he is one tough cookie and just laughed off.

There were many beautiful plants in that rainforest but we did not see very much wildlife. The animals that survive up there are very timid and difficult to find.

I hope to make a more extended trip in those mountains later in the year, but the rains have started and it is getting difficult even for the mountain hunters to move around.

If you have a desire to take a trek in the rainforest get a hold of Francis Pa In and have him look up Gil in Tinglayan.

Be sure to have plenty of time and have very flexible schedule.

banaue_064.jpg If you don’t care to go into the jungle there are some interesting Kalinga villages on the north side of the rive that are more accessible.

Francis would be happy to take you there.

A close look at Gil’s back shows where a few leaches were overlooked.

This photos is taken back in the lowlands near the rice fields on the return trip.

Most of the others were taken at the top of the mountain.


These small leaches cling to your ankle like a corrupt banker. They are relatively harmless but leave an itchy but insignificant wound. We just pulled them off but some people go through an elaborate removal procedure. Whatever works for you!

They are just one of the residents of the rainforest in the Philippines.

Jungle Trekking

Mar 26, 2007 www.dutchpickle.com

9 responses to “Jungle trekking with Gil”

  1. weasel ???

  2. hey, I didn’t get how to contact gil… can you please explain again?

    Thanks for the trouble! :)


  3. luba plants are known to be medicinal. it is just like anti-biotic. just wanna know why and how it becomes a medicinal?

  4. I’m a french photographer who knows very well francis i use to live in kalinga province to his family in tinlayan, as the first we meet it was my guide and we became freind;true freind i recommend him to anyone planning to travel to kalinga province.YOU would never forget this trip.

  5. Hi dutchpickle or someone else who could help

    I’m planning a trip with my husbad during Dec 11 to Jan12 (about three weeks) in the Philippines.
    We are planning to do the following route from Baguio: Baguio – Kabayan – Sagada – Bontoc – Banaue – Batad – Manila in five days.
    Could you please let me know if the above route is planned in the right order (I can’t seem to find a map that would show me where all the above towns are located exactly) and also what would be the approximate distance between the various locations and if possible traveling time between the various locations. We are planning to rent a car with driver for the Manila to Baguio part and then maybe rent a car and drive it ourselves from Baguio onwards and return to Manila. Is this a workable plan in your opinion? Thanks

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