UPDATE: September 2020: An advisory was released stating that the 1300 Level Swimming Pools will be officially opened on September 5, 2020 following the guidelines imposed by the government which are:
- The swimming pool establishments will be operating only from 8:00AM-3:00PM.
- Only one (1) family or group will be accepted for the day.
- Only residents of the Municipality of Itogon will be accepted.
- Secure a Barangay Certificate from your Barangay enumerating all the names of those who will be coming, and that you are all residents of such Barangay, and that you belong to the same family/group.
- Drinking of liquor is not allowed3
For more information, you can read the Standard Operating Procedures as issued by the Municipality of Itogon and as posted by Barangay Captain of Poblacion, Albert Carantes. Please contact the following mobile numbers for more queries:
UPDATE: January 2020: Although some of the swimming pools here were damaged due to Typhoon Ompong in 2018, there are still resorts and swimming pools that are operating up to this day. You can still come and have some fun!
Just some walks away from home, there’s this hot spring called “Trese”, where we can swim for hours and beat the summer heat. And rumour has it that an inactive volcano sits deep down the riverbeds that is why the water is warm. The water flows from the hill. There are rocks and wild plants everywhere and local folks are doing gold panning along the riverbanks.
Years later, some people started making fishponds along the riverside. They usually raised tilapia and milkfish. People passing by the road thought that the pools of water were actually swimming pools. Few started to come and have some swim. The cheapest entrance fee costs five pesos (₱5.00) only. Because of this, the owners of the fishponds thought of building swimming pools for recreation and possibly, for business. And there, in a span of years, a lot of swimming pools were constructed.
Trese is located at Poblacion, Itogon, Benguet. It is called “Trese” because of its 1,300 level elevation. There are more than twenty (20) resorts which are owned by different persons. You have to understand that the resorts or swimming pools here are “pang-masa”, if you know what I mean. There’s nothing high-end, and it isn’t a 5-star resort. Rather, this is the place for those easy-going and “taraki” ones who only want to relax and get a refreshing swim. There are steambaths, stores and the famous videokes. It’s a simple getaway which offers you a true nature feel just enough for your simple pleasures.
HOW TO GET HERE:
Again, the swimming pools are located at Poblacion, Itogon. It is not within Baguio City. It is 21 kilometers and about 45 minutes-1 hour ride from Baguio City.
There are three (3) routes you can choose from:
1. Baguio-Tuding-1st Gate(Ucab)-Poblacion:
This is the route for PUVs. If you choose to commute, proceed to the jeepney terminal located at Lakandula Street, near Jollibee Magsaysay, beside Tiongsan Magsaysay. Well of course, you shouldn’t be confused which jeepney to hop in because a “dispatcher” will be right there shouting words like “Itogon”, “Trese”, or “Swimming Pool”. You’ll see marks or designations in the jeepneys which should bear “Sangilo”, or “Poblacion, Itogon”. The regular fare is P32.50 and P26.00 for students, Senior Citizens and PWDs. First trip will be available at around 6-7 AM but you have to wait until the jeepney is full. If this is your first time, do not be hesitant to ask around, we are friendly and peace-loving people, you can always ask. And also, do not worry about when to say “Para!” because the ride will stop right there at the swimming pools area. I promise, you’ll never get lost.
2. Baguio-Loakan Airport- Kias- Balatoc(Virac)-Poblacion:
This route is probably longer than the first one but only for few minutes. When you reach the entrance gate of Philippine Military Academy at Kias, Baguio City, continue further until you reach the road where the terminal of Kias PUVS is located. From here, always take the left road and continue going down. When you reach the dam of Benguet Corporation, drive further going down and you will now reach Trese.
This route has the shortest travel time which will only be about 30-45 minutes. When you reach Tram, Ucab, you’ll see the Police Station, go a little further straight, and take a right when you see the waiting shed. But before taking this route, please be warned that the road here is steep and some parts are one-way only. Make sure that your car or vehicle is not fully-loaded and is mechanically okay.
WHERE TO PARK:
During normal days, there is no problem about parking areas. However, there can be busy days. Peak seasons include Holidays like Christmas Breaks, Holy Week, and anytime when the school semester ends and vacation starts. Please do not underestimate the number of people. It has always been customary that I get a call from a friend during peak seasons asking me where to park their cars.
You can park your car in the parking area for free. Once it is full, you can drive to the Municipal Hall where you can park also for free. The Saint Charles Borromeo ground, on the other hand, is not a public place. Hence, you are lucky if the Church opens its ground for you to park your car for a fee. If there are no other place, the Barangay Tanod allows you to park along the road provided you do not impede the traffic. So please cooperate!
During peak hours, I usually suggest that you come early. Pools are open as early as 7am or earlier than that as long as workers of the pools are available. Pool owners do not prefer reservations. They go by the rule of First Come, First Served basis which is usually the case. By 10:00 AM, cottages are already full. You are lucky if the management will accommodate you in make-shift tables and tents. I am not kidding.
Adult: P50.00 per person
Senior Citizens, Persons with Disabilities, and Children (2-9 y/o): P30.00 each.
Cottage fees minimum at P300.00. It includes grill and common wash area. Hotels? There are no available hotels or inns here. The entrance fees are way cheaper here than resorts in Asin, Tuba which pegs at P100.00 per person and their gazebos at P800.00.
You have nothing to worry about the quality of the water because it is not something poisonous or dangerous. I can say that because DENR has regularly tested (every 6 months I think) the waters and results have always been the same, that is, all tested parameters are within the standards of DENR. So, there is no truth to the rumours or allegations (being spread by some corporate villains) that the water is not safe. Also, we do not use CHLORINE because we drain and clean the pools DAILY. (Except for a few I guess, you’ll see it.)
TRESE AND THE TYPHOONS
The business has been growing for so many years since 2005ish. When this blessing came despite the silent babblings of some ungratefuls, the owners and their families were more inspired to keep and handle it. This venture paid for our tuition fees and bought my books. For the younger generation who were up for the lay-out, design, and labor, this became our solace when we are sad or angry. This is our hiding place when we do not want to be found. This is our party territory when all we want is to have fun. This is the younger generation’s happiest playground and most precious artwork.
But after roughly 10 years of perseverance, Typhoon Lando came on October 19, 2015, my birthday. One night, and it almost destroyed everything. Watching it being torn to pieces and washed away by the raging waters was painful. But nothing stopped the owners. They decided to rebuild it little by little. And for the next three years, it has survived.
Yet again on September 15, 2018, Typhoon Ompong landed in the Philippines hitting the Cordilleras. On the eve of that fateful day, we were scared that history will repeat itself. And true to what we feared, Typhoon Ompong in just few hours exhibited its wrath by pouring heavy rains. It caused landslides, claimed deaths, and destroyed properties. The rehabilitated resorts, one of which is Moutain View Resort, are now gone and impossible to rebuild. From a total of 24 swimming pool establishments in the area, 16 of which were eroded and drowned by the typhoon and the angry river. Pool owners were shocked. The very source of our livelihood that was built and sustained for more than 13 years has vanished in a span of few hours. It was indeed a sad day for the people of Itogon.
Today, the only remaining treasure we have is the memories that will never be forgotten. It stays, no matter what. Despite all that, we remain grateful because even with the loss, no one was hurt, no one was harmed. Life goes on. But then, there is no goodbye, only see you again!
The Backpacking Lawyer is a practicing lawyer and a nurse by profession in the Philippines. While she enjoys her day job, she loves traveling and sharing her adventures and misadventures with you.