Nueva Ecija | Spectacular Wow atop Mount Sawi

In this age of Filipino ‘hugot’ culture one can easily assume the name of this mountain was coined as a reverence to such Filipino movies like “Camp Sawi” and “This Thing Called Tadhana”. The real story behind it though stems from a tragic suicide that happened a few years back right on top of the mountain. A woman—as the story goes—after experiencing a heartbreak, hanged herself at one of the tree branches of the now mowed down Balete tree. Locals originally named the mountain Mt. Sawing Balete, as a reference to the sad fate shared by the fallen tree and the lovelorn soul.

Mount Sawi Gabaldon Nueva Ecija
The panoramic view from the peak of Mt. Sawi

Spectacular Wow Scenery

Together with my friend April, we joined the rest of our group in Cubao—all strangers to each other and only formed together through the Tripkada mobile app (a now defunct travel joiner app)—where we huddled the twelve of us inside a cramped van and proceeded to Nueva Ecija just a few minutes after 3am. Upon arrival after sunrise at the jump-off located at Brgy. Malinao in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, we all hurried out of the van to stretch our bodies and to the sounds of satisfied moans of finally alighting out of our sardine can-like ride. 

Mount Sawi Gabaldon Nueva Ecija
The verdant trail of Mt. Sawi

Soon, the unfamiliar silence was replaced by gleeful recitations of “hugot” (unrequited love) quotes as homage to the name of the mountain we’re about to hike. “Gusto mo ng magandang tanawin, tumitig ka sa sa akin” echoed the girl behind me who appear to be having a romantic tension with one of the trip organizers.

Mount Sawi Gabaldon Nueva Ecija
Plant spotting in Mt. Sawi

Despite coming from a breakup, a couple of years earlier myself, I never saw the mountain as an allegory for such feeling of romantic doom. Mount Sawi appeared like any mountain: lush with swaying grass and with a cool upswing and ebbing flow of the countryside winds.

Situated at the slopes of the Sierra Madre mountain range, Mount Sawi rises 1,948 feet above sea level over a sweeping expanse of a beautiful mesh-up of a trail of barren mudflow and a blooming jungly landscape.  

man made structures found along the trail of Mount Sawi

A solitary remnant of an old tree protrudes like an unhammered crooked nail, atop the peak. “Could this be the remains of the tragic Balete tree?” I asked myself. Its noticeable minuscule size however, rejects that possibility.

The view of the lowlands from the peak of Mount Sawi Gabaldon Nueva Ecija
Trails of mud flow from Mt. Pinatubo's eruption 

Standing behind the half-dead tree gave me an unfiltered view of the remarkable scenery below. I could trail the river where the mud-flow from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption once flowed violently. Like a knife cutting through flesh, it left a visible imprint encircled by thriving greens of the plains of Central Luzon and the rolling foothills of Sierra Madre.

Mount Sawi Gabaldon Nueva Ecija
It's quite lonely at the top ey?

As if on cue when it’s time for my mind to describe what I'm seeing, a movie about the heartbreak of adolescence comes to mind—only this time, I associated it with a feeling of awe: "Spectacular Wow", I came to declare to myself.

Marky Ramone Go stands atop Mount Sawi Gabaldon Nueva Ecija
Reminiscing sawi moments atop Mt. Sawi

I looked around and saw the girl now holding hands with the boy she's spatting early on during the hike. They may find a happy ending together or not. Whatever, it doesn't matter because the only thing that matter is the NOW—and right there, they seem to enjoy each other's company and as for myself, the views from atop Mount Sawi is anything but lowdown.

Mt. Sawi Itinerary (with Dingalan, Aurora sidetrip)

3:00 am -ETD Cubao
7:00 am - ETA Brgy Malinao
9:00 am - ETA Mount Sawi summit
10:00 am - Start descent
11:00 am - end of dayhike
12:00 pm - Lunch
1:00 pm - ETD to Dingalan Port
2:30 pm - ETA Dingalan port (board a boat)
3:00 pm - ETA Dingalan White Beach
3:30-3:50 pm - Hike to Dingalan Hill
5:00 pm - start descent
6:00 pm - ETD White beach to Dingalan Port
6:30 pm - Head back to Manila (with dinner stop-over in Cabanatuan)