Mt. Pulag: a Blessing in Disguise

The mountain showed me something entirely different, something invincible yet so profound, something that took me time to realize…

It took me sometime to write this blog. I didn’t even know if I should write about it. Because if anything, my Mt. Pulag climb was a big disappointment. However, it dawned on me that the disappointment was self-inflicted, because I put too much expectations. What happened was I expected everything from what I’ve read and heard about Mt. Pulag: from the sea of clouds, astonishing sunrise to beautiful sceneries; all that was a no-show due to bad weather and almost zero visibility. 

Zero Visibility, Rain and Strong Wind

Rather, the mountain showed me something entirely different, something invincible yet so profound, something that took me time to realize… A lesson only the gods of Mt. Pulag can teach.

One step at a time

Now, this may seem cliche but Mt. Pulag didn’t allow me to see what was outside of me (the scenery, etc.), It wanted to let me see what was inside of myself. It was a wonderful realization:

-It made me see that I am still capable of loving, of giving love despite without returns. Not just of loving persons but of places, of events and of circumstances. It says be loving even if others are not, even if others will not, even if others cannot.

-It made me see that I am capable of doing things beyond what I thought was my limit. That I AM CAPABLE regardless of what other people may think.

-It made me see the good and bad side of people, that each has a story to tell and each has a unique upbringing, do not judge.

-It made me see the wrath of Nature – respect Nature. Respect begets Respect and lastly…

-It made me see what is truly important in our lives. It’s not our wealth, not our degrees or professions, not our associations with esteemed individuals nor even our archievements. What is truly important is our family and friends. And if your lucky enough that both you and your special someone found each other, keep that, that is important, not everyone is blessed with a lifetime partner.

Standing strong despite the cold

My realizations may seem out of the blue and totally unrelated to mountains but I did experience it; the mountain, or mother nature for that matter, did change my perspective for the better.

But no matter how grateful I am for this realization. I definitely STILL WANT to see that sea of clouds, astonishing sunrise and beautiful sceneries. So please Mt. Pulag let me see you next time. Be good to me. I’ll come visit you again. See you soon.
PS

We climbed Mt. Ulap the day after Mt. Pulag, its another story to tell 🙂

Meet the Gang :)….Photo credits: Ms. Norlyn Joy Escalicas

  

Alto Maldito

We shared our experiences of Mt. Aminduen over dinner, shared our laugther, shared our moments – we shared Life!

Maldito – a Spanish word for “cruel” – was how a friend of mine described the climb to Mt. Aminduen’s Summit – Alto Peak.  The mountain was indeed heartless and cruel but beneath that disguise lies a beauty that takes your breath away.

Our excursion began at the city of Ormoc, where we rented a monster multi-cab that took us to the jump-off area at the mountain Barangay of Cabingtan. A group of lively, entertaining and energetic local Tourism Officers greeted us with a very big “Mais” on their faces (Mais – a term used by the locals for smile 😊). And truly, I can say that the local barangay did a very good job at selecting their tourism officers – they were the best, they were fun people to be with. After an orientation of the mountain we were off on the trail.

We started on a gradual ascent on a mountain slope vegetable farm and then abruptly turned into an arduous continuous assault inside a fern-mossy forest. The trail was established although quite still untamed due to falling branches, toppled tree trunks and slippery rocks due to moisture from condensed air the night before. The almost unending assault finally ceased when we reached the shores of lake Janagdan, the sight was awe-inspiring. The locals mentioned that the lake was once a crater of an active volcano long time ago; and no doubt it once was, because the parameter of Mt. Aminduen is dotted with several geothermal plants, which only indicate that there is a strong geological activity happening inside the belly of the mountain.

We had our lunch by the lake, rested for about an hour and then started our trek towards the campsite. the trail became slightly less difficult and the view became more stunning. However, as with anything beautiful it has its price, the mountain collected its dues by way of injuring one of our female companions (Ms. Chai Navarro); she got her ankle sprained and it swelled really bad. Fortunately, our local guide (Kuya “ayuk” Danny) had contacts with the local rescue unit and they responded well and fast. The group, now less than one, decided to continue the hike to the campsite and rest for the night, in preparation for the big assault to the summit the following day.

 

The morning came fast, it was cold and gloomy but it was a sweet morning nonetheless. The smell of morning dews, the smell of breakfast and of the smell of adrenaline sweat made the new day something to really look forward to. The assault to the summit started off gradually and then eventually turned into one of the most challenging climb our group ever had. The terrain was steadily steep, loose soil and rocks falling; some sections require ropes to pass though and what made it even more exciting was that, we didn’t have any safety equipment but the improvised ropes that were prepared by the local guides. The terrain was indeed dangerous, one simple mistake could prove fatal but it was the perfect place to be at during that time, it was perilous but a mirthful experience to be in.

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After hours of climbing we reached Mt. Aminduen’s Summit – Alto Peak. Sadly, the mountain did not give us a clearing, there was almost zero visibility due to thick fog and rain was threatening to pour. But it was a rewarding feeling to be up there, it was more than enough to see the mountain’s forest, its fauna and its magic!

Going back down was a different challenge altogether, by the time we started to decent the rain was already pouring strongly, the mountain’s water ways was filling up. The mountain’s terrain was already slippery in normal conditions, so much more when its wet. Going down was twice the risk as going up and to make matters worse we were cold-drenched in the rain. But we managed to return back to the campsite alive and in one piece 😊

We camped our second night near lake Danao, there we met our injured companion, Ms. Chai. We shared our experiences of Mt. Aminduen over dinner, shared our laugther, shared our moments – we shared Life!

Cheers to Mt. Aminduen! till we meet again

 

Some of Mt. Aminduen’s Flora and Fauna:

Our Local Guide Kuya “ayuk” Danny and Ate Janneth

Meet the Gang #DimenEU

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DimenEU

The Reasons Why We Climb

“You feel more accomplished and it makes you appreciate the little things in life.”

“Hey boy, whats with that huge bag of yours, where are you going?”, An old lady asked.

“To the mountains, I’ll hike and make camp up there”, I replied enthusiastically.

“For sure your bag’s heavy, and the mountain sure has many steep terrain, isn’t that tiresome, and why would you do that?”, The old lady inquired confusingly.

I just looked at her and gave her an uncomfortable smile, I simply could not explain to her – right then – why….ohhh why

Alot of us, for sure had been asked the same question – why do we climb, why do we love/like/want to climb?, Whats in it for us?, What do we get from it in return?, Is it worth the pain? Or do we even know what we’re doing?

And I guess many , if not all,  climbers struggled finding an answer to the question too; simple as it may seem but it’s really hard to express our thoughts. So, i asked a couple of my climbing friends – all sorts of them from beginners, regular climbers to veteran climbers, to express their thoughts, in writing, on why they’re passionate about climbing. Some of them just took an instant to answer, while some took weeks; nevertheless, they all have one common ground – it boils down to their love of nature and the search for one’s soul.

Without further ado here’s what they have to say:

Mary Jean Pauline Plarisan, 22                               Registered Medical Technologist/Student Doctor of Medicine

“I love climbing mountains kay tungod it makes me appreciate God’s creation and His greatness and that maka say ka nga “Thank you God”. I also feel like I’m one with nature and through it kay it makes me feel so alive. It’s something I need to feed my soul with every now and then.”

George Kevin Omandac, 23                                     Marine Engineer

“I love climbing mountains for it makes me realize how small I am and how huge the world is and how my life is just a small portion of it. I love to gain experiences that most people can’t have, and to appreciate what the world has to offer. In the mountains, there is always new adventures and experiences that awaits for us to discover and learn. I also love meeting the local communities living in the mountains. So pack up and lets have a great adventure!”

Faye Dianne “Anne” Pozon, 32.                           Registered Medical Technologist

“Im just a newbie, and I don’t climb that often, but when I do, I love how quiet and calm everything is up there. Living in a city with all the noise and bustle; it is a breath of fresh air (Literally! :-P) to be in a place where you can actually hear your thoughts!”

Michelle Ganub, 27                                                  Banker

“Bitaw, I love to climb because its something that feeds my soul,  I like how mother nature bewitched and enchant me every single time with its beauty.”

Jesivel Knight, 45                                                              Housewife, Mother of two

“I love the challenge, the freedom to wander and the sense of achievement in conquering the mountain but do we ever really conquer the mountain? Hehe”

Ellen Tamboboy-Pepito, 47                                Home Management, Mother of three

“I climb because I want to explore…                                 I climb because I want an adventure…                           I climb because I love nature…                                         I climb because I’m curious whats in the mountains…                                                                           I climb because it gives me peace inside of me…”

Ferdinand Dailisan, 25.                                                Assistant Researcher

“Because its healthy, many health-benefits , clean fresh air, friendships , It’s like meditation kay maka relax sa imoa stress sa work.. ahahha thats all”

Jing Lavilles de Egurrola                                         Author/Writer/Cebu Thruhiker

“Because it is an obstacle and I need to see what’s on the other side.”

What you’ve read above are straight to the point answers – short and concise – however, some of my climbing friends took some mouthful of words to fully convey what they have to share, some even open-up a life story on how climbing changed  the way he sees himself, some recounted how climbing created wonderful memories and one even submitted her response in a two-page narrative! Indeed, each climber has a story to be told:

Dim Jorsan Tesiorna, 37                                          Senior Art Director

“To someone who haven’t tried mountain climbing he’d probably say you’re risking your life and you get no tangible thing from it. Explaining why you climb to a person who hasn’t been to any mountain is like describing what the world looks like to a blind man. Looking at life from a different vantage point changes its meaning. In the mountains, you always learn something every time, you discover more of you and you become a better version of you. You learn to respect the environment and how to protect it. You get to see amazing places and worship them. Mountain climbing expands your mental and physical limits. You develop incredible strength and endurance. The mountains teaches you patience and perseverance. The struggles and challenges along the paths you take empowers you to become stronger and pushes you to get to the top. It builds your confidence and teaches you to push past your deepest fears. You learn to be humble and enjoy the small luxuries in life. In the mountains, your problems become insignificant. It reminds you how very small you are in comparison to the world that surrounds you when you’re standing at the summit. It is the best way to get to know someone and make amazing friendships. Most people who climb mountains are the best breed of human of beings – positive, strong and happy.When you take the risk and push yourself to the limit, everything tastes better. You feel more accomplished and it makes you appreciate the little things in life.”

Ramon Corro, 63                                                       Assistant Vice-President of a Power Company

“During my high school days, as kids it was quite normal for young boys to be curious about what lies beyond those hills and at one time was even reprimanded for skipping classes because me and my friends took the risk of climbing the mountains near our school.  My love for exploration got halted after getting to college due to lack of opportunity and thought that it already died a natural death until my interest got ignited again few years back when a friend invited me to join Cebu Mountaineering Society. At our age, climbing those peaks is already quite exhausting, challenging and dangerous but becomes rewarding upon reaching the peak knowing that only a few seniors can still do the same. Every peak became new experience and new memories to make in our lifetime.  The game is to transport your body to a higher elevation. Mathematically speaking, it’s all about strength to weight ratio. If you are not yet lean and have no plans of getting lean, this could be difficult. On top of it all, determination plays a very important role for senior climbers. The challenge becomes even tougher knowing that most of the groups out there are young mountaineers and our best at this age is nowhere near their pace. However, it is quite rewarding to note that these sacrifices bring great effect to our health. No Guts, No Glory.”

Alexius Yap, 26                                                           Web Developer/Designer

“I hate to admit it, but I was an alcoholic before, I drank for days on end; I had a well paying job but wasted all my money on alcohol, constant visits to motels for meaningless sex and just complete shit. The reason simply because I was weak, too weak to deal with my recent break-up and the fact that I was an Irresponsible father to my daughter; there were times I even contemplated in ending my own life,  I completely shut everyone out in my life including my own family. The very first time I was introduced to mountaineering by a friend, I wasn’t quite exactly a fan, I was never the athletic type and I just hated hiking, it was daunting and pointless and it constantly reminded me of how weak I was, whenever, I ran out of air so easily. But overtime I slowly noticed my strength building up and for the first time in a long while I felt good about myself and I wasn’t about to let go of that so easily; long story short, I decided to quit drinking and smoking and started believing in myself more that I can be better than who I was before and this in turn has made my mother more proud of me than ever. Climbing mountains has made such an impact in my life, it pushes me to even further better myself and it enabled me to apply that mentally to other aspects of my life, like landing my dream job for instance, and learning to accept how things have turned out, because of this hobby I am gradually learning to brave whatever challenge I may come to face, that is why I climb because I can.”

Roger Padriga, 61                                                     Retired Sales Manager (my dad, btw)

The first time I climb a mountain is when I was about 11 or 12 yrs old together with my brother, my cousin and 2 neighbors our age. Way back then, any hill, for us, is a mountain. During that climb, the 5 of us spent our first overnight outdoors because we were lost. Our parents went ballistic and worried at the same time when they learned that we were out there with nothing but the bare t-shirt we wore. We shivered to the bone that night due to the cold wind and nothing to protect us but the tree leaves we gathered that served as cushion bed and insulator. But  young as we were that time, we were thrilled by the experience. So at an early age I climb mountains for the thrill of being up there. Ever since then, I always desired to climb, but the daily rigor of working for my education, and then eventually the hardships of earning a living to raise a family set back my passion in climbing . Then about 4 yrs ago I was assigned in Western Visayas in a very stressfull management function. And to relieved myself from the stress, I started to trek outside the city every weekend and eventually start climbing again…and oh boy what a wonderful feeling to be recharged and refreshed after each climb and  I simply did not feel any job related pressure. So now a days I climb for “Green/Forest medication ” to keep me afresh in physical health and in mind. Sometimes its sad to note that newer generation climb with blasting music and a container of beer to perk up the climb. Maybe they miss the point that serenity is much greater music and the scenery is intoxicating enough to lighten up any mood.

Shout out to miss almera for having the longest response 😁

Almera Bravo, 36.                                                    Computer Engineer

“I wanted to be with nature, to see and appreciate the wonderful creations of God

-I always remember the poem in my Elementary days titled All things Bright and Beautiful. Indeed the poems tell the truth about how wonderful the world is and its up to us to discover it.  One part of the poem I like is He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell, How great is God Almighty, Who doeth all things well. You can appreciate life more when you see God’s creations and then you can say to yourself Kaanindot gyud sa kinaiyahan, naa gyud diay ingon ani nga lugar gihimo si Lord para makita ug ma experience nato ang iyaha gibuhat para angay ampingan”.

The mountain is calling and I must go

-Mountains are calling me, I dont know why but maybe because every time I climb mountains I feel refresh from negative vibration in life. I feel that I am healed from any heartache in life. I feel more responsible in life because you learn to take care of the nature; you learn to be aware that you need to protect them in order for other generations to experience it.

I should never give up

-Climbing mountains teach me to be more patience, keep going and never give up. Climbing mountains is very hard. Difficult trails, long stretches of constant vertical climbing can be exhausting. But if you have a goal and you set it in your mind, then the reward is amazing at the top. This experience teaches me in life that no matter what life throws at me I take it and I will handle it.

I will meet the most amazing people whom I call friends

-The friendship and the camaderie are different. You will accept them no matter who they are because they are true people when they climb. Hikers and climber is awesome breed of people as what I experience in every climb. They are positive, strong, confident, happy and sometimes they show there soft spot every time they make their hugot moments about their lovelife hahaha



Teach me a lot of Lesson

-Every mountain has different difficulty level and every time you finish climbing the mountain, its an achievement in yourself that you did it again, you have succeeded and you never stop climbing because you still look forward for another mountain to climb to conquer.”

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You see, each of us might have different backgrounds and divided by generations, but we are somehow connected, deep within us we long to be one with nature and we share this connectedness, some have forgotten this primal force that pulls us together but its there – we are one. As for me, I climb because I am at my utmost peace when I’m up a mountain, it may sound cliche but when I’m up there I feel the connection with everyone and everything in this planet – as if in a state of trance.

The Majestic Mt. Talinis

…it was a long day – a long memorable beautiful day.

Mt. Talinis is one of Negros Region’s Mountain Trilogy and the most hiked of the three, probably because of its convenient location – just a few kilometers away from Negros Oriental’s capital of Dumaguete. Also known as Cuernos de Negros (Horns of Negros), is classified by PHIVOCS as a complex “Potentially Active Volcano”, it is rich in biodiversity and home to numerous “sulfutaras” or sulfuric vents, hence, several Geothermal power plants can be seen in the mountain to harness its power.

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Mt. Talinis

I’ve been to this mountain twice; the first time I went there was a beautiful disaster, I was literally new to mountaineering then and I obviously lack the necessary equipment that a mountain, such as Talinis, requires. To make the story short, my dad and I almost succumbed to Hypothermia, the night was bitter cold, fierce and wet – our skin almost torn apart by the low temperature. It was a scary experience but taught me a very invaluable lesson, a lesson that made me the mountaineer that I am today.

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view ot the Summit from the Camp site

Fast Forward 5 months after the first climb, I decided to give it a second try, this time I’m more prepared than before and already armed with the knowledge of the mountain’s characteristics. The team – DimenEu – that I’m with this time, took the same trail we took during the previous climb, which is, the Bediao – Apolong Traverse or the Dauin – Valencia route. We met at Dumaguete and went straight to the town of Dauin, where the Bediao trail starts. The Local Government of Dauin mandates that a group of climbers should have a local guide with a 7:1 ratio at 700 pesos per day, which for me is a good idea, not only does it give a means of livelihood for the locals, this is also for the safety of the visiting mountaineers.

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Local Government Ordinance

The trail starts immediately with an open-field assault and it’s really draining, especially when the sun is out and hot. About 30-45 mins later we finally reached a tree-line that signifies the start of the jungle trail – a very welcome sight after a very hot open-field assault.  It was refreshing once inside the forest, the air was cool and most importantly the heat of the sun can’t penetrate the jungle canopy, but it was long from over. We trekked for another 4 hours through thick roots and wild flora to reached Yagumyum Lake. there we rested for about an hour, ate our packed lunch, had a quick nap and off to the trail.

Lake Yagumyum

We trekked again  for another 4 hours or so through beautiful ridges that was covered in tree-roots (Imagine Pandora in the movie Avatar), go under humongous tree trunks that were centuries-old, battle against slippery mud-rocks and passing-by scenic foresty-ish domain, it was tiring but satisfying at the same time.


At last just before dusk,  we arrived at Lake Nailig, where we would set our camp. the lake is mesmerizing, I’ve seen it before but it never failed to seduced me yet again by its natural beauty and by its alluring presence, it’s as if a feeling of longing has been answered – you just want to hug the lake.

The night was cold but I came equipped to face it 🙂 . The morning after, we rushed to the summit of Mt. Talinis, excited to see the mountain’s full splendor from up above. The assault was surely difficult, the path was so steep almost to a 90 degrees angle. but all the struggle was worth it….the view was…it was…..let the pictures speak for itself

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View of Lake Nailig and Lake Malingin (far right) from the Summit

After more than an hour at the summit taking pictures and just starring at the view, it’s time for us to descend to the other side of the mountain – the town of Valencia. The descent was exhuasting, the downhill trail was treachearous and lenghty, like there was no end to it, until we saw a shimerring  white cliff from a distant, we finally reached the Sulfutaras. As we near it, a smell of rotten egg started to emerge, it was an unpleasant smell but the scenery was the exact opposite – it was a wonderful angelic death scene (because of the sulfur vents, there was death and decay everywhere).

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View of the sulfur vents from a distant

We descended further down the mountain until we arrived at the Twin Falls, two water falls standing tall adjacent to one another, a hidden paradise indeed.

It was already dark when we finally got down the mountain, it was a long day – a long memorable beautiful day.

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Meet the Gang – Team DimenEu (The Second Climb)

 

Meet the Gang – Team Spartan (The First Climb) photo by: Sir Mon Corro

 

 

 

For the Newbie Mountaineer – Apir bi :)

You’ve been wanting to climb but don’t know where or how to start, you’re in the right place… go on reading

Lately a bunch of friends, acquaintances and even strangers asked me on how they could start to climb, like what mountain is best for beginners, what equipment to start with and, in their current state of fitness, would they be able to climb mountains. And it’s funny because this is exactly the same questions I asked the first time I showed interest in mountaineering. And I’m happy to share my thoughts. I’m not an expert, I myself am fairly new in this, but I have some little bits of info that I believe could help newbies start a passion worth pursuing.

Equipment/Apparel

Now, you really don’t need to have those fancy branded mountaineering items, maybe in the future you’ll eventually want/need those, but as for now basic stuff will suffice. Except maybe for shoes, I suggest you invest on trek shoes, because this is the one item in mountaineering that basically takes almost all the battering, having a sturdy shoe really does help. For the rest of the apparel, inexpensive and unbranded trek shorts and dry fit shirts will do. For starters you really don’t need that much of an equipment: a backpack, a durable water bottle, a whistle, a portable first aid kit and probably a trekking pole are primarily what you’ll need. When camping, an inexpensive Dome-type tent, a sleeping bag and an earthpad will serve; all other important equipment like burners, cook sets and blades etc. have your more experienced companion bring those items. Eventually and gradually you’ll learn to upgrade your arsenal of equipment, it’s only a matter of time and budget of course.

Where to climb?

And now that you have your basic apparel and equipment where should you take your first step to climb?

Unfortunately, I’m only going to recommend mountains within Cebu, since I live in Cebu City and I’m quite unfamiliar of other mountains for beginners outside Cebu; My apologies for non-Cebu residents who are reading this. Anyways, here is a list of mountains perfect for newbies.

Sirao Peak

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Sirao Peak via Malubog Trail – my personal favorite route to Sirao

Sirao Peak is that hill across Ayala Heights at the Transcentral highway; there are multiple entry points to Sirao Peak, However, the most popular route is via Budlaan. Budlaan is in Barangay Talamban, the trail features a river trek, a semi wall climb and an open field assault to the peak. The peak also has a wide campsite with a very beautiful view of Cebu City. Budlaan falls is probably the highlight of this trail.

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Budlaan Falls

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Mt. Babag

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Babag peak – View of Brgy. Bonbon’s Valley

If you’ve been to Cebu City you may have noticed those prominent towers on top of a mountain facing the city. That mountain is Mt. Babag. Mt. Babag is known by local mountaineers as the practice grounds or the playground. The Mountain is also the highest point in Cebu city and probably the most climbed mountain within the city. It offers a non-stop assault to the peak – a feature that most veteran mountaineers are looking for, for practice. When climbing this mountain, it is advisable that you follow your own pacing – going too fast will definitely drain you in no time. Once on top of the peak, you’ll have yourself a 360 view of both the city and the vast valleys of barangay Bonbon and of course a closer look of the gigantic towers of Mt. Babag.

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Babag Towers – they’re HUGE, like really

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Spartan Trail

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The Long Spartan River Trail

The Spartan trail lies beneath the forest inside the Pamutan-Buhisan water reserve. The first part of the trail is a steady assault and followed by a decent to a long river trail leading to the Buhisan water shed. This is a very long trail, so prepare your knees.

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Bonbon-Cantipla Trail

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River and Boulder Trail

It is recommended that you have had climbed Sirao and Babag before climbing this mountain trail because if not for its lack of height this could well be considered as a major climb. It is approximately 75% river trek with huge slippery boulders, aesthetically beautiful to look at, but very dangerous to tackle with. This is by far the most scenic trail I’ve been to that is within the jurisdiction of Cebu City, this is undeniably a must try trail.

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Himbabawud Falls
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Rappelling the waterfall

***P.S

San Carlos Heights

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Sann Carlos Heights Peak

It’s a small mountain near where I live, it is here where I usually run, jog, hike, walk and meditate ^_^ whenever I got not much time to do a minor climb in a larger mountain. If you happen to live in Basak Pardo, Cebu City or somewhere near it, give me a ping and let’s climb, it’s a perfect site for climbing practice.

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You can also join Mountaineering groups in facebook that schedules a climb every weekend – SuOC, DIY Travel, Cebu DIY-KKB climb, DimenEU, Kat-Kat just to name a few

There are many mountains in Cebu Province that you can try, most of them are friendly to beginners. Mt. Mago, Mt. Manunggal, Mt. Mauyug, Mt. Manghilaw, Mt. Lanaya, Mt. Hambubuyug, Candongao Peak, Osmena Peak, Mt. Kapayas and the list goes on

Fitness

Unless you have a serious heart problem There is no excuse, you are capable to climb, so Welcome my Friend and see you on Top of a Mountain!

Mt. Mandalagan (Tinagong Dagat) and the Beauty that she is…

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.

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

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Bamboo Water Irrigation System

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…

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Clingy Leech

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”.

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A view of the campsite from above (see that space at the center)

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.

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Fog rushing downwards

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.

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Breakfast be like
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A Different kind of Flora

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.

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The Magic Six

Biliran: Mt. Tres Marias, from summit to sea

Biliran: Mt. Tres Marias from summit to sea

Biliran – a not so popular island to many but is definitely one of the hidden jewels of the Philippines. It is home to two majestic mountains: Mt. Panamao and Mt. Tres Marias. And we had had the chance to climb the latter. Mt. Tres Marias as the name implies, comprises of three (3) summits forming the Tres Marias Mountain Range. To climb the three summits it would require 4-5 days atleast; and since we didn’t have the luxury of time we only climbed the summit of Mt. Naliwatan, which according to our local guide is the highest peak of the three. The other two peaks namely Mt. Sugo (peak 1) and peak 2 (I forgot the name, sorry) are the two peaks that are least explored and mostly uncharted territories.

Our climbed started at the jump-off area at barangay Sampao at the town of Almeria, Biliran.

Barangay Sampao, Barangay Hall
At the start of the trail, still looking fresh, Brgy. Sampao

The first part of the trail was wide barangay roads and then becomes narrower the closer we got to the woodlands; once in the woodlands it becomes a single track forest trail. The mountain was like more water than land, because it consisted of countless waterfalls and streams, that locals don’t even bother anymore to named them all!. Sampawan falls, Ulan-Ulan Falls, Recoletos falls and Nomad falls just to name a few. But Ulan-Ulan Falls is perhaps the most majestic of them all because it mimicks the stunning Maria Cristina Falls in Illigan City.

The stunning Ulan-Ulan Falls
Recoletos Falls
Nomad Falls

There is no other way 🙂

It was almost night time when we reached the Aeta camp – the camp was so named because it is believed that a tribe of Aeta once dwelt on the said camp. It was raining almost the entire day, so we ended up in a cold and muddy campsite.

We woke up around 3am the following day to climb for the summit, it was still very dark, rainy, cold and slippery, so it was a bit of a challenge. But as the light rays of the sun slowly broke the dawn; the darkness that was, gradually turned into an enchanted realm of Mossy Forest protected by an enthralling misty white veil, it was indeed a sight to behold. However beautiful as it was, it was also unforgiving, the trail was exhausting, cold and the rain was unstoppable. We were drenched, freezing and tired.

Misty Mossy Forest

But all that hardships were worth it when we reached Naliwatan summit, that finally despite all odds we were able to accomplished our goal to climb and to see Mt. Tres Marias in her full splendid.

Naliwatan Summit (taking this shot was dangerous, it was very windy and a long way down)

The mountain’s wild life

And did I mention that Biliran also has alot of amazing neighboring isles. We visited one as part of our sidetrip and stayed there for a night – Sambawan Island. I need not say more of the island let the picture speaks for itself. It is the best island I’ve visited so far.

A cup of Good Morning, Sambawan Island facing the volcanic island of Maripipi

We will definitely be going back to Biliran, to Mt. Panamao this time around, till then.

Meet the Gang…#DimenEu #TeamKatKat

Candongao Peak, Badian

​Im not going to write about itineraries, there is plenty of sites out there that discusses such and besides I really don’t know how to make one. Speaking of itineraries do check sir Gian’s and mam Shiela’s blog – “Adrenaline Romance” you’ll find plenty of infos there.



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Candongao Peak, Badian

I remember back in the days when I was a kid, I’ve always wondered what it was like on top of those pointed, somewhat-hilly peaks on the mountain ranges in Badian, Cebu. I thought maybe they’re just like the Chocolate Hills in Bohol… But way bigger.

Chocolate Hills?
Scattered Hills along the trail

Only about a few months ago that I finally got to see what it actually look like up there,  I’d have the chance to climb up one of those peculiarly pointed peaks. The locals call this particular peak “Candongao”,  it is one of the highest among the many peaks that line the Mountain Range and among the few that actually has a trail.

Candongao Peak (looks near but very very very far)

T’was a Sunday when we went there, together with my dad, my sister, my sister’s boyfriend and a bunch of other climbers (eventually, a few of these “bunch-of-other-climbers” become our friends and now, our regular climbing companions). The day was perfect for climbing, it was a fair day or atleast the sun was not always out, because there were many scattered clouds blocking it; but it was humid, humid enough to squeeze out our sweat and humid enough to make us see water as gold. The jump-off area is near Sohoton Elementary school which is about 7-8 kilometers (I’m not really sure with the numbers in kilometers, I’m bad in estimating things, but you get the idea) away from the main highway, which required us to ride a “habal-habal”; and boy, that particular ride was terrifying!, the road was bumpy and dangerous and really tiring than the actual trek itself because you have to grip hard and hold on to dear life not to fall out of the motorcycle on your way to the abyss. And what a relief it was when we finally reached the jump-off area in one piece.

Sohoton Elementary School (jump-off area)
Sien (The Guide)

Anyway, once in the jump-off point, Mr. Sien (the one and only lakwacherong hampas lupa Guide – as he fondly calls himself) oriented us on the do-and-don’ts on the trail and gave us little bits of trivia about the place, said a prayer and off we trekked up the mountain. The trail was Amazing!, it was changing, as if it was an unfinished canvass – the painter still unsure what to paint. From dry forest to lush jungles, from grasslands to pointed stone gardens, and from wild plants to tamed vegetable farms. It was indeed a masterpiece, an art that anyone can appreciate. It made me wondered that there’s really something beyond our comprehension when nature crafts things, its messy and sometimes just way too out of order but it’s beautiful and graceful at the same time.

Lush Jungle
My sister on the grassland
Rock Gardens
Vegetable Farm
Wild Plants

The peak was nothing I imagined, it was beyond what I expected. It was spectacular up there, both the west and east side of Cebu is visible from the peak’s vantage point, it was like for a brief moment I peek on an eagle’s vision from way above. It was a glorious feeling on top of Candongao Peak. And although, they say, that pictures speaks a thousand words; no amount of words (or pictures for that matter) can describe its beauty, you need to actually be there to see it for yourself.

Top of Candongao Peak
The Ridge (just below the peak)
View from the peak
That’s a long way down!
Time to descend
Decending

Incidentally, Osmeña Peak (O peak) is only a few kilometers from Candongao Peak. I can only hope that what happened to O peak (being over commercialized, littered upon and raped) will never happen to Candongao Peak. Lets do our part and save whatever is left of nature and nurture it; we have done enough damage already.

The Gang

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