This was my second attempt to climb Mt. Mandalagan, the first was unsuccessful, just a day before our scheduled expedition there was an order from the Local Government to close the mountain as precaution from forest fires, it was summer then and it was hot and humid and fire is very likely to break out, just as what happened to Mt. Apo and Mt. Talinis days prior to the closure of Mt. Mandalagan. And as an alternative we ended up hiking and camping at the mountain ranges in Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental; but that’s another story to tell.
So, we went back on a rainy season last July and finally this time around we were heading to Mt. Mandalagan Tinagong Dagat. From Bacolod City we went to the jump-off area at Barangay Patag, Silay City, about an hour travel by van. Arriving at the jump-off area we immediately set out to climb. The scenery was lush and you could see many bamboo water system all around made by the locals in the area
The trek was pretty much a breeze until tiny creepy crawlers started attaching themselves to us. The forest is infested by leeches – they’re all over the place. And these leeches are very hard to get off you, they stick like glue. So sticky that one of our companion uttered in complete distress: “Mabuti pa yung leeches nag hohold-on no matter how hard you push them away!!!”. I’m not quite sure if that was a distress call though it sounded more like a “Hugot”. However scary the leeches seem to be, they’re actually harmless, they just need a very tiny amount of your blood and that’s it, consider it as blood sacrifice as payment for climbing the mountain, they bite painlessly anyway so…
The trail was a gradual steady uphill and some parts are literally root climbing, but the temperature inside the forest was cool and not humid, so we weren’t that physically drained.
After hours of trek and being drenched by the rain we finally reached “Tinagong Dagat Campsite” – it means ‘Hidden Sea’. The campsite is a vast plateau about the size of two soccer fields combined and is believed to be the crater of Mt. Mandalagan, afterall, Mandalagan is classified by PHIVOCS as a “Potentially Active Volcano”. And during heavy rainfall the field becomes a large Lagoon, hence, the name “Tinagong Dagat”.
The moment we reached the campsite we were greeted by an immense body of Fog rushing downward towards the campsite it was as if the mountain welcomed us with open arms. It was also in that particular moment where everything seems to go so slow, that moment where you just appreciate everything God has made and realized just how insignificant our existence in this wide Universe – yeah, mountains can do that kind of things in our mind and it’s beautiful.
The following day, we broke camp and decided to take the Campuestuhan trail for our exit. And just when I thought that there was nothing new to see, the mountain yet again surprised us. We entered into a rather different kind of forest – a mystifying one. The colors and hue were different, the plants and the trees were somewhat dissimilar from the flora we saw when we entered the mountain, it somehow suddenly became a more diverse forest like a coral reef on land. And what’s more peculiar is that this side of the forest didn’t have or at least have less leeches compared to the previous forest and that’s good news.
Mt. Mandalagan is a very beautiful mountain, so beautiful that you’d wish all your loved ones could visit such a lovely place, a piece of heaven on Earth as they say. I definitely will come back soon, taking the Sulfotara route this time – The Land of Sulfur.