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Posted by on Aug 28, 2013 in Featured, Things to do |

Jungle Survival Training with the Abelling Tribe

Jungle Survival Training with the Abelling Tribe


Just when you thought our playground Tarlac has ran out, we learn yet another amazing activity we bet you can’t easily find anywhere else: the Jungle Survival Training!

Sure, there have long been demos about how to utilize bamboo to make fire, get water and cook rice, BUT the Abelling tribe of Sitio San Pedro can show you that and more.

I learned about this during our overnight trek in Mt. Bungkol Baka with the same group of guides and decided right then and there to organize

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a Jungle Survival trip soon.


The trip took a while to organize but we finally decided to just grab the cars and drive to the jumpoff point of Sitio San Pedro in San Jose, a sitio roughly 40 minutes away from the city of Tarlac.

After a short orientation, we started our hike.

Hike was pretty short considering we only walked for an hour to our campsite. We wanted a little more challenge so we climbed the steep dirt path going up Mt. Malatukbaba.

Matalukbaba, translating to “a place of skulls”, was once a site mounting the heads of defeated warriors from conflicting tribes during the precolonial times.

A file photo of Mt. Matalukbaba during my overnight trek to Mt. Bungkol Baka.

Thirty minutes and we reached the top. The reward? A beautiful panoramic view of San Jose, none other!

The gang who braved the steep Mt. Matalukbaba

Daylight was running out so we started making our way back to camp where fire was already burning and our rice and soup cooking.

Rice was already cooking by the time we got back to camp.

Then the rains started to pour over our poorly pitched tents (we were mere noobs without proper basic mountaineering training, then. Do not judge us!) so we all scoured to the hut our guides made for us. And were we impressed! We barely felt any rain over our heads.

Abelling technology is flawless!

enjoying his shelter for the night.

Good thing dinner was ready so rain didn’t really mattered that much then.

The dinner was, hands down, amazing! The best rice we have ever tasted (and we eat a lot of rice).Plus, the vegetable soup soured by a plant we gathered on the way to camp warmed us despite the heavy downpour. Our processed food felt every sort of shame next to their simple but very tasty dishes.

The following day, breakfast was served on a bed of banana leaves with some crablets we hunted the night before, some freshly cooked rice…

Another lovely meal prepared by our Abelling eco-adventure guides

and half a burger which the girls diligently brought to camp and heated over live coal.

The burger that made it in the jungle of Sitio San Pedro! Look at their blissful faces.

After breakfast, we were treated to another round of demonstrations. This time our guides showed us how to make traps for birds and monkeys.

The bird trap as being demonstrated by one of our guides (left); preparing the door trap (upper right); and MJ demonstrating the monkey trap (lower right).

We then made our way to Pangasaan Falls. The hike was about an hour to an hour and a half over boulders.

Making our way through boulders to Pangasaan Falls

When we reached the falls there was barely any water flowing downstream. Probably since it was already summer when we visited.

There was barely any water running down the waterfalls but it was a sight to see, nonetheless.

We made the most out of it and showered under the teeny tiny stream of water in the corners. We headed back to camp not too long after.

What our trip to the falls lacked, our learning experience in the jungle fully made up for. Just when we thought it’s all over, the guides made us try one more thing: shoot bow and arrow!

Shooting bow and arrow in our campsite

We broke camp after, bathed in Mang Johnny’s perpetually welcoming home in the jumpoff point and headed back to the city for some old town classic, Victor’s.


  • Coordinate what you and your group want. Customize the trip and include what you want to be included in the activities. With hiking, without hiking. Whatever it is, just be clear and ask Mang Johnny or this hunk on the photo, for help in organizing.

    Mang Johnny aka MJ and the rest of the Abelling eco-adventure guides will take care of you on your next visit to San Jose, Tarlac

  • Best time to visit would be during the cool months where the surroundings are very green and the waterfalls still rich with rainwater. In short, it’s between the image on top for the months of March-May or the one at the bottom for the months of July-January.
  • Bring ingredients to cook in the camp either by bringing it from home or buying from the community. Coming from Manila or the city, you will pass several markets like the one in the city, in Tibag, some kiosks along the San Jose roads and even in the community. We recommend you try asking the guides for organic upland rice before the trip.
  • You may also arrange for the community to cook lunch for you when you reach the jumpoff point on day 1 or day 2 of your trip. That way, you can spend more time in the community, know more about their culture and taste their local delicacies. A handful of
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    the locals have been specially trained by the Provincial Government of Tarlac to prepare not only local but also international dishes. Again, coordinate with your guides before the trip.

  • To best appreciate the program, this trip should be made interactive. You may skip merely observing and jump right in and try the activities. You may even group yourselves in two (both teams with guides and guests) and see who can make fire the fastest, cook better dishes with the ingredients gathered from the forest, make better shelter, etc. Also, some of the guides may lean towards being shy so this set-up should help warm them up.

Getting there

Via public transporation Victory Liner, FiveStar Bus, Genesis Transport, Philippine Rabbit or practically any known bus company run trips to Tarlac everyday. Alight at Siesta Bus Terminal in Tarlac City. You may arrange pickups and dropoffs at the Siesta Terminal with your contact guide.

Via private transportation From Manila, take NLEX and exit at SCTEX H. Luisita. Refer to this map for directions to the jumpoff point.

Getting guides

The standard guide fee for any overnight trip in Tarlac is P700. The usual ratio of guide to guests is 1:5, but you might be needing more since there will be a lot of activities such as gathering of materials in the forest, cooking, making traps and shelter, etc. For a group of ten guests, four guides should suffice.

Remember to get only Tarlac accredited eco-adventure guides. You may arrange trips with Mang Johnny by calling him at 09151768520.

And that, is that! The whole troop from the Jungle Survival Training.