Del Pilar: Trek to Historic Tirad Pass
Located in the mountainous town of Gregorio del Pilar, it is the site of the infamous Battle of Tirad Pass where valiant Filipinos led by General Gregorio del Pilar defended General Emilio Aguinaldo from the advancing American forces. It is here where Del Pilar and his men gave their lives in defense of freedom on December 2, 1899. It is a part of Tirad Pass National Park established by Presidential Proclamation no. 298 in 1938.
ROAD TO DEL PILAR
It is still dawn when we started our journey from Candon and took the road going to Sigay (where we earlier went to Aw-Asen falls), the road we are already familiar with. We went through the towns of Banayoyo and Lidlidda through the concrete road. Upon reaching San Emilio we turned right to Barangay Pantoc where we have to go through steep, downward road and sharp curves. Then we took the concrete road of SEDPex until we finally reached the town of Del Pilar. Because we traveled early, we can still savor the cool breeze while mesmerizing the beautiful view of the mountains.
HIKE TO TIRAD PASS
After two hours of a bumpy ride, we reached the town of Del Pilar (formerly called Concepcion) which is surrounded by mountains. We immediately went to the town hall to have a courtesy call and to state our objective. Though our contact is absent, we were assisted by Ryan, who served as our trek guide. From the town proper, we took the partially concrete road going to the entrance of the National Park.
From this point, the footpath follows the old Spanish trail that traverses through the Tirad Mountain Range. The path was made through colonial forced labor or polo y servicio and was mainly made with hardened soil and mountain rocks, with widths varying from one to three meters wide. Seven huts were also constructed to serve as a rest area.
While climbing the zigzag trail we took notice of the trivial writings written on rocks containing information about the historical site. Among the spots that can be seen is the Iillengan Cave. The cave was used by Del Pilar as his rest quarters, and it is where he wrote his patriotic ideas.
TIRAD PASS SHRINE
After more than one and a half hour of climbing, we finally reached the Shrine. The site is just small, but what stood out is the badass monument of Goyong riding on a horse. The statue is painted with gold which complements its surroundings.
The monument was sculpted by Inar Bulaong, one of the pupils of renowned sculptor Guillermo Tolentino and raised in Malolos, Bulacan. The shrine was unveiled on December 2, 2000, during the conclusion of the centenary of the historic battle that took place here. It was a gift by the local government of the town of Bulacan, Bulacan, the birthplace of Goyong, to relieve the spirit of the valiant battle.
There are also several markers around the monument, where written on it are the various groups that had reached the shrine, including the Philippine Military Academy (where a military base in Baguio was named after him). There is also a hut at the front for those who wish to take a nap or stay overnight, and there is a restroom with unlimited water supply coming from the mountain spring.
There is a narrow footpath not far from the shrine. It is called the “lonely trail” because at its end is the spot where the young valiant hero lost his life. I am wondering if, during those times, the site is still clear of any trees that should have concealed Goyong from the enemy snipers. On the other hand, visiting here may not be lonely at all, thanks to the breathtaking view that awaits here. From here you can see the mountains of Salcedo, Sigay, San Emilio and the town proper below.
GLIMPSE OF TIRAD PEAK.
It has a height of 1388 MASL the highest point in Tirad Mountain ranges. From the shrine or base camp, it takes another three or four hours to reach here.
Due to limited time (and given the lack of preparation) we weren’t able to go here, but we might give a try some other time. The peak itself is not visible from the shrine, so we just let Buknoy (our drone) fly up to capture the mountain’s beauty.
Take the road going to Santiago, Ilocos Sur. Before reaching the Santiago Bridge, turn right going Banayoyo. Before reaching San Emilio, descend to Brgy Paltoc. Go straight until reaching the town of Gregorio del Pilar.
Note: As the route passes through a creek, it is advisable to avoid travel during heavy rains.
The terminal can be found in the town of Candon, just several blocks from the church. There is only a single trip per day that departs at 1 pm. The fare costs PhP70.
Macario Burgos (Municipal Tourism Office) – 09175198803
Ryan Cristobal (Our Guide) – 09158545120
- P30 – Regular
- P50 – Foreign
- P20 – Students
- P10 – Child
- Free – Resident
- It is advisable to contact the Tourism Office before proceeding your journey, so you may be assisted.
- Bring your own food as there are no food stores available.
- A clean (and cool) drinkable water is available at the shrine.
- There is a strong cell phone signal, thanks to the cell site in a nearby town.
- If hiking to the Tirad Peak, it is advisable to stay overnight.
- It is also advisable to hike here during summer or dry season to avoid the inconvenience of slippery trails.
DASH OF HISTORY
The battle that took here is one of the two turning points in the Philippine-American War. The President of the first Philippine Republic, Emilio Aguinaldo, was on the run from the advancing American troops, having just fled from Bulacan, Central Luzon and Northern Luzon, decided to take refuge at the massive Cordillera mountain chain.
From Candon, Ilocos Sur, Aguinaldo and his men went to the Cordilleras through a narrow passageway called the Tirad Pass. General Gregorio del Pilar, with his 60 men, was tasked to stall the pursuing enemies to give Aguinaldo more time and distance to escape. He saw the terrains of Tirad Pass as an advantage to the defense of the Filipino troops.
However, a Filipino collaborated with the enemies by telling them the secret passageway. This betrayal eventually led to vicious, six-hour battle standoff on December 2, 1899. At the end, 52 of the 60 Filipinos were killed, including Del Pilar who was shot in the neck, in contrast to the two American losses.
Despite the tragic loss of his top aide, Aguinaldo still continued to exhort his troops to fight until the end. After months of eluding arrest, he was eventually captured in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901.
This heroic battle was depicted in a 1996 movie Tirad Pass, with Romnick Sarmenta playing the role of Gregorio del Pilar. A sequel to the runaway hit 2015 independent movie Heneral Luna is also in development, focusing on Del Pilar.