Across the Desert – Mt. Pimmayong (657+)

Mt. Pimmayong
San Marcelino, Zambales
Jump-off Point: Sitio Ilong, Brgy. Sta. Fe, San Marcelino Zambales
Latitude:  15° 1′ 48.7″ (15.0302°) north
Longitude:  120° 10′ 50.2″ (120.1806°) east
Elevation:  657 MASL (2,156 feet)
Description: Minor Climb, Grassy Plains, Forest, scenic views of Cabusilan Range, Cawag Mountains, Lake Mapanuepe, Lahar Flows from Mt. Pinatubo


Ever heard of San Marcelino in Zambales?  Usually travelers and adventure seekers alike just pass by this sleepy town by turning left at the Municipal Hall coming from Manila. Typical destinations are the secluded coves and mountains of San Antonio, the beaches of San Narciso, islands of Candelaria, to catch some waves at San Felipe, or to hike the two-thousander, Mt. Tapulao in Palauig. The town of San Marcelino is approximately 150 kilometers, or 3-4 hours away from Manila, and is one of the lahar stricken areas in the province. This is where the Sto. Tomas River, a desert during dry season and a raging lunatic of a river during wet season, passes by this area down to the coast of San Narciso.

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October last year, the Tourism Office of San Marcelino opened up a new hiking trail in Brgy. Sta. Fe that boasts of 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains of Cawag, Cabusilan and those in Palauig and also the islands of Capones and Camara. Moreover, San Marcelino is popular to some mountaineers who traverses Mt. Pinatubo via Delta Five or Sapang Uwak Trails from Porac, Pampanga down to Brgy. Aglao or Pili, the hike usually takes three days on otherworldly landscapes made by the devastation of the volcano on the surrounding provinces during the 1991 eruption. We decided to visit Mt. Pimmayong after hearing this from acquaintances and luckily the Tourism Page of San Marcelino, headed by Ms. Mikee Labio gladly assisted us on our inquiry.


The Tarudak Peak

We left Manila at exactly 12 midnight at the Caloocan bus terminal of Victory Liner, we just slept all throughout the trip and woke up after two and a half hours in Olongapo City. Some thirty minutes later at 03:00 am, we alighted at the sleepy municipality of San Marcelino and crossed the street to have a quick breakfast at a convenience store while waiting for our contacted tricycle service prior to the trip. Then Mang Gil arrived with his tricycle and we started the trip along the cemented roads of Agpalo St. passing by some houses before leading down into the now dry Sto. Tomas River. Everything went pitch black, and all we know is we are traversing the desert of a river filled with fine lahar sand until we reach Sitio Ilong in Brgy. Sta Fe.

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From the Brgy. Hall, Mang Gil then coordinated with our guide for that day, Kuya Joel Soler who was waiting for us since 03:00am, and without further ado, we lit up our headlamps and started the trek. The Amihan winds that morning are sweeping causing us to shiver from the cold as we reached the nursery filled with Mahogany and other trees at the foot of Mt. Pimmayong. After almost an hour we reached the coldest spot in that mountain, that they call as the Bira-Bira Ridge. Contrary to the sandy forest floor at the start of the hike, this one is filled with rocks and boulders to step upon where the winds are blowing even extra hard, it was like hiking in the Cordilleras. Then we reached the campsite or the so-called Tarudak Peak, where huts and water source are provided for visitors, there are no view points from there but one must not intimidate the cows roaming the area for they are kind of territorial.

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The Desert Sun

From the campsite, the trail then ensued into an open road where 4×4 trucks and motorbikes could easily pass through, this is due to the government efforts to link the mountain to the low lands via an accessible route. We did not spent that much time at the campsite since we are trying to chase the first light at the summit, and so we did it, after half an hour, we reached the very summit of Mt. Pimmayong, some 657 meters above sea level.

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The Cabusilan Mountain Range with Mt. Pinatubo’s crater having an affair with the clouds.
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Short assault before the summit.
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The mountains of Cawag at first light.

The summit is a flat grassland that towers over the great fields from down below. We were fortunate eough to witness the sunrise at its very peak, the sky exploded in vibrant hues of  orange and yellow as it rises over the mountains of the Cabusilan Range with the placid Lake Mapanuepe at the foot.

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The solitary Mt. Bagang casting shadows across the lahar fields of Sto. Tomas River.

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Then the Lahar fields of the once flowing Sto. Tomas River are illuminated turning into white and almost auburn with the solitary Mt. Bagang dotting the whole expanse. I must say that although the trails leading to the summit is fairly easy, the views are rewarding enough. From there the islands of San Antonio and the Cawag Mountains are seen also with its grassy summit and ridges bowing down before the great sunrise.

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Cabusilan Mountain Range.

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Some of the adjacent localities in the area include Mt. Maquineng (5kms to the North),  Mt. Piluca (5kms to the Northeast), Mt. Bagang, and Simiminoblan Hill (5kms to the Southwest). Another interesting sight is the Lake Mapanuepe with its glittering waters during sunrise, this was once called the Mapanuepe Valley where a mining corporation set-up a housing community for its workers. But on that fateful year of 1991, the Mt. Pinatubo erupted and the lahar following the eruption blocked the drainage of Mapanuepe River, south of the volcano, flooding Mapanuepe Valley together with its settlements. This eventually caused flooding of the whole community submerging homes deep into the placid water of the now, Mapanuepe Lake. As of today, the steeple of the church with a maroon cross still protrudes out of the water, causing an eerie feeling and even called the attention of the international media when it was claimed once that a Pinatubo Monster lives inside the lake, a sort of Philippine version of the Lochness Monster.

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Lake Mapanuepe with the steeple protuding out of the lake. Photo by ABS-CBN News

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The desert sun has risen and with the reputation of Zambales as a very hot hiking destination, climbing during the wee hours of the morning is recommended. Still underrated but I am hoping soon this would be a hit destination to help the locals within the community. We then got back to the campsite in Tarudak Peak and slept a bit before eventually reaching Sitio Ilong by 11:00 in the morning.

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Find me.

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Bulldozer at the Tarudak Campsite.
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The group at Bira-Bira Ridge.

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Bathrooms were closed that time since it is a Sunday and only a two groups visited that day, so we decided to tidy up at our next destination and we still have to cross the lahar field going back to the highway of San Marcelino. Along the way, we kept on pushing our tricycle after being stuck several times on soft lahar terrain and we even encountered several dust devils or “Ipo-ipo” and it was such a fascinating phenomenon before it eventually dissolved into nothingness afterwards.

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Mad Max: Fury Road, San Marcelino Edition – Jeepney Fashioned Tractors big groups could rent when crossing the lahar fields of Brgy. Sta. Fe from the highway.

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En route to Brgy. Sta. Fe with Mt. Pimmayong at the background.
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Dust Devil swirling along the lahar field.

The ZambalEscape One Day Adventure

Mt. Pimmayong Travel Guide
Through the Waves of Liwliwa  – San Felipe
Logomakr_5P0UNA
Updated January 17, 2018

 

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In Transit – Mambajao


Mambajao is the capital of the province of Camiguin located off the coast of Northern Mindanao and is known for its boomerang shaped sandbar, waterfalls and native delicacies.
Follow our adventure here: Camiguin Travel Guide

 

In Transit – Pagudpud


A once sleepy town at the northern coast of Ilocos Norte, now a tourist haven for its long stretch of white sand beach, giant windmills spread across the bay, waterfalls, rock formations and luxurious resorts.
Check our 2-day adventure here: Ilocos Norte Travel Guide

 

The Last of the Real Ones – Mt. Iglit (1432+)

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Mt. Iglit
Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro
Jump-off: Mt. Iglit-Baco NP, Calintaan
LLA: 12°51’N, 121°10’E; 1432 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 2-3 days /9-11 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 3 with bouldering (250m)
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)


Wrapped in Malong and with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) about to set in, I rose up really early at 03:00 in the morning together with the whole group who settled in for the night at the small huts inside the ranger station. And we did final preparations for the second day within the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park. About an hour and a half passed, with everyone finished with their breakfasts, we had a short prayer and briefing before starting the trek at 04:30am to reach the summit of Mt. Iglit rising at 1432 meters above sea level.


The Grasslands

Mt. Iglit with the whole national park, is a rare mountain grassland ecosystem, usually when we say grasslands, the first thing that comes into mind is those of the African Protected Reserves or the Safari Zones like the Maasai Mara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro to name a few, and when we say mountains first thing that pops up is trees and its maze-like forests. But that is not the case for the MIBNP, since the Philippines also has its own unique version: it is a mountain and rugged landscape filled reserve covering 75,445 hectares with its majority, 70% of which, is covered in grasses.

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From the ranger station, we took the few flight of stairs leading to the grassy hill that signals the start of our sunrise hike. Half an hour passed and the hill covered in tall and sharp grasses took a detour on the left side wherein we have to descend down its steep cliff by using the rope installed by the rangers. We abseiled down one by one since the cliff risks a major fall with just one small mistake, and we resumed when everybody’s already at the base.

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The Assault

It was still dark and the wind was still, humid all the same, and with night treks like this, it was just a quick blur until the sun rose up and finally we saw ourselves panting from all the assault we’ve done in the past hour. I must say that from the rappel cliff, there were no flat grounds, just 50-60 degree inclines with no flat areas to rest in between. Then the morning sun slowly illuminated the sleeping mountains around and it was such a great show; the golden hour will be the best sixty (60) minutes of your life, good thing is that it happens twice daily, and almost 731 times a year.

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By 07:00am we have finally reached the treacherous Mangibok Ridge, the trail connected to the summit of Mt. Iglit that is a narrow ridge with deep drops on both sides. From up there the savanna grassland covered mountains around was just as green as the color green gets.

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The terrain was remarkable, just like the Cawag Mountains of the Zambales province, only this time, rugged terrains everywhere- sharp ridges, plateaus, hills and river gorges – as far as the eye can see.

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Then by 07:30am the summit was covered in clouds, we were not given the 360 degree view of the surrounding terrains of the Mindoro Island that gives you the chance to even see Mt. Halcon from a distance, but nonetheless, Iglit was such a rewarding hike. We went down by 09:00am after having snacks and arrived at the ranger station by 11:00am. It was a tough climb and I must say that training is a must before hiking Mt. Iglit as well as all the other mountains, since there are no tree covers until the summit that makes the climb exhausting when the sun rises above the horizon.

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From the ranger station, we descended back to the base camp and reached it before dawn, and eventually took the longest trip again back to Manila and got back to work the following day.

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The Takeaways

There will only be a sense of urgency when it is too late – and we only care about the value of something when we become aware of it that it’s about to be gone forever. So let me list down some of the takeaways I learned from this tiring yet fulfilling adventure:

  • Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park is established to protect what’s inside of it –  this is the cradle of a unique ecosystem, a faunal region, that is one of a kind in the country, and in the whole world.
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Photo from wikipedia.org
  • Mindoro is always considered as a seperate bio-geographical region from the rest of the country: this yielded a long list of one of a kind species that is confined and exclusive to the island. With a savanna like landscape in a temperate country with rugged terrains, the island cradled an all time high endemicity rate. These creatures, some of which are discovered recently are the:
    • Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis)
    • Mindoro Hornbill (Penelopides mindorensis)
    • Mindoro Bleeding Heart (Gallicolumba platenae)
    • Mindoro Imperial Pigeon (Ducula mindorensis)
    • Mindoro Stripe-faced Fruit Bat (Styloctenium mindorensis)
    • Green-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura viridifacies)
    • Mantanani Scops Owl (Otus mantananensis)
    • Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)

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  • In the 1900’s the Tamaraw count inside the area was at the rate of 10,000 and counting, and as the new millenium came, their population exhausted to only merely 405 heads as of the year 2015. It was around 200 heads a decade ago, making the Filipino icon a critically endangered specie.
  • The park is home to eight (8) river systems and is considered a major watershed –  this strikes a balance to the ecosystems of the Oriental and the Occidental.

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  • It is home to various indigenous tribes of “Mangyans” – “Tao Buhid” and “Buid” to name a few, that is still devoid of delusion of the modern world. Their cultures, almost intact and life has been the same as compared from ages ago. Why are they IMPORTANT? it is because where there are indigenous peoples with homelands, there are still biologically rich environments. “In this country, out of 128 identified key biodiversity areas, 96 of which are known to be part of the ancestral domains of the IPs.” (Philippine Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas: Review of Policy and Implementation)
  • It has been nominated to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites inscription  -after being recognized as an ASEAN Heritage Park. This means that it will be part of the list in the world that exemplifies outstanding examples so that others may follow suit, and also if pushed through, will gain more financial help from the international community to protect the realm of the Mindoro island.

What can we do to HELP?

  • Visit our very own National Parks and Conservation Areas – why visit the already developed parks out of the country if we have our very own versions that is still culturally rich and diverse. Give the parks a chance to be developed if we will always visit their places, the increase in the number of visitors will be a catalyst to build more infrastructures and strengthen their preservation efforts.

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  • Love Local – Get the service of the guides, buy items that are produced locally such as souvenirs and the like, with this small act, we are not only immersing ourselves, but also, we are helping the locals to earn a living by ecotourism and this paves way to more opportunities for the community other than logging, mining and other environment damaging activities.
  • Respect and Live Local –  Since we are extending a helping hand, may we still be aware of their culture and try not to taint it with the modern ones. We need to bridge the gap that separates us from them, we don’t know much about them, but we can still learn how to help if only we have the ear to listen, and a heart to empathize.

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May this article serve as a reminder that the Philippines is a rare gem that sets us apart from the whole world. We have what other countries does not have and may we learn to protect and preserve what makes us unique as an individual and as a nation. I hope that our grand kids may still witness and tell a better version of the one of a kind mountains of Mindoro, and the creatures that roam its terrains.


The Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park Adventure

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Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park – Travel Guide
The Last of the Real Ones – Mt. Magawang (850+)
Logomakr_5P0UNA
Updated as of January 10, 2018

The Last of the Real Ones – Mt. Magawang (850+)

At the heart of Mindoro Island lies the smallest of the five (5) major centers of endemicity or the so called “Faunal Regions” in the country. This is called the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park that is the humble abode of the critically endangered Tamaraw (Bubalus Mindorensis) and other flora and fauna such as Hornbills, Pigeons, Deers and Pine Trees that is exclusive to the island. They may be the last of the real ones, so never miss the opportunity to raise awareness about their blurry futures. With all of these endowments and recognition both locally and internationally for its unique biodiversity and social attributes, the national park is now declared as an ASEAN Heritage Park.

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Mt. Iglit as seen from the trail to Mt. Magawang.

The Tao Buid

It was a Friday evening when our group met in a bus terminal in Pasay, and after a two hour waiting and travel time, we then arrived in Batangas Port. From there we again waited for the next RORO/ship bound for Abra de Ilog in Occidental Mindoro as we were a few minutes late from the last ship that sailed back to the said port. By 12:30 am the following day, we boarded the ship and eventually arrived in Occidental Mindoro after a two hour trip. But we were only halfway there, from the port, we hired a van that will take us to Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro which is roughly 180 kilometers away. We slept all throughout to prepare our bodies for the hike later

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Batangas Port.

By 06:30am, after more than 3 hours of land travel, we arrived in Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro where we had our breakfast and where we also bought supplies for the 2-day hike inside the national park. Shortly after the much needed final preparations, we secured our guide in Brgy. Poypoy, before transferring our backpacks and supplies into a “Kuliglig” or farm tractor since the road leading to the park is mostly unpaved, dusty, muddy and not advisable for vans.

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The sun rose majestically upon the “blue mountains” of Calintaan, during the bumpy ride, one can not simply miss the parched rice fields tended to by the local farmers, houses were made of light materials and life along the smaller green meadows was laid-back. Then we arrived at the Military Detachment near the base camp for a courtesy call.

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The little briefing about hiking inside the park was helpful as we were assured by the officer-in-charge that insurgents are not visible inside the area, only around the mountains enclosing the whole area, but are controlled by the military forces as of the today. So safety will not be a big priority but we were also warned that if gunshots were heard, duck until no sign of danger is imminent, as determined by the guides, before proceeding to safe areas.

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What I noticed during the short transit, is that some of the locals around the area are Mangyans who identify themselves as “Tao Buid” and “Buhid”. What I witnessed is that during the harvest season they go down to process their crops and grains with the help of the locals, which was happening as of that moment. Some of them were only wearing tattered loin cloths or pounded tree barks fashioned like fabric to cover their private parts, including the women.

After more than 12 hours of total travel time, we arrived at Camp 1, or the base camp, where some wild monkeys are roaming around, ready to snatch food from unsuspecting visitors. The camp was surrounded by some Mahogany and big Acacia Trees and some secondary forest with a river on the side, we then prepared ourselves for the long hike ahead of us, and made some last minute preparations. Then we huddled into a circle then Kuya Jepoi made it to a point that everyone should be prepared mentally and physically by discussing important matters from the trail and route that we will be taking, what to do during emergency situations, the grouping as who will be the lead and sweep, cultural sensitivity as indigenous people will be present along the trail, expected time to be followed, and distribution of supplies and hand held radios.

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Jepoi during the pre-hike briefing.

The Monkey Bridge

Then the hike commenced, initial part of the trek was not really what I expected from a national park. Since this also serves as foot and migratory paths for the indigenous tribes, some portions were not protected from slash and burn farming, some tree canopies were not present that made the hike quite exhausting from the heat. There was devastation all over from the deforestation prevalent from decades ago up to the present day. But, the landscapes were still interesting, wide gorges, rivers with boulders and stones, small hills and forests in a distance were spared. It was just utterly disappointing to see it in that state, and to know that it was made by man and not nature. Shame.

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After more than an hour, we arrived at the Barkong Bato Rest Station where we have to cross one of the bridges that will certainly leave a mark on me, the Monkey Bridge.

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Crossing the monkey bridge.

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During monsoon seasons, the river below it is not passable, so the park administration built this single wire bridge closing the gap between the river with two additional wire for support so the uplands will not be isolated in times of bad weather conditions. Although during our hike, the current is not strong and deepest is at waist level, but we still chose to cross the wobbly bridge anyway. If the hanging bridge in Eddet River in Kabayan, Benguet was frightening, wait until you experience this one.

The Tamaraw

After crossing the monkey bridge, the trail then connected with a now becoming dense forest. Still with all the slips and slide we had along the way due to the still muddy condition of the trail, we had covered much of the distance en route to the Ranger Station.

 

After a series of river crossing and some four hours and forty minutes of trek inside the park, we have arrived at the Tamaraw Ranger Station or Camp 2, around 450MASL, where we will spend the night. The station is complete with basic amenities such as huts and rooms to spend the night in, water sources, bathrooms, kitchen and common areas for the mountaineers and guides alike. After resting and eating our packed lunch, we left our packs and started the second part of the hike that day, to the summit of Mt. Magawang.

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Around three in the afternoon we started the ascent. From the whole forested ranger station, everything underwent a radical change; the once covered in forest trail ensued into a savanna landscape, the bald grassy peaks all around were promising and no trees were seen all around with Mt. Iglit’s peak soaring in an alpine like manner way above the lush landscape. Everything was just grass after grass that ends in small shrubs and alike. Patches of forest only remained near the gorges where rivers meet.

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Welcome to Hobbiton!
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Mt. Iglit covered in afternoon clouds.

 

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Seal it with a kiss.

Then after an hour, we reached the viewing deck of Mt. Magawang some 850 meters above sea level, where the Tamaraw Plaza can be seen with all the small hoofed mammals grazing day and night. It is said that the disturbed grasses and clearing we have seen along the trail are where the Tamaraws also spend time before they hide further down when alerted by the others that people are coming.

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This dwarf buffaloes called as the Tamaraw (Bubalus Mindorensis), is a small hoofed mammal from the Bovidae Family and is one of the seriously endangered species in the world and is now only endemic to the mountains of Mindoro. What sets them apart from the Buffalo is that they are smaller, hairier, solitary and is not gregarious, they are often found in small herds and most of the time encountered alone. Their horns are not arched sideways but points upward in a V-shape form that makes up to their fierce reputation and is known to attack once intimidated.

 

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This is why the park has been established, to protect this creatures from the human habitation, logging, deforestation, and the unstoppable human induced extinction. As their numbers dwindle, their fragmented population spread thin and has been pushed way up into the grasslands of Mt. Iglit and surrounding areas, sighting of them is rare nowadays except for the special place that seems to be their refuge in the heart of the mountains inside the park called as the Tamaraw Plaza. There is only roughly less than 500 of them still existing in the MIBNP.

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Although I didn’t had any decent photo of the dwarf buffalo, seeing them through the lens of the binoculars lent by the rangers was an awesome experience. Small round and dark horned creatures ran freely among small brushes near the open canopied glades of the mountain. Isn’t it a beautiful sight to see them as free as they were since the dawn of man?

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Oh, Baby, it’s a wild world.

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The advocacy to raise awareness of the population and importance of the Tamaraw to the country started in 1965 and is carried on by their present caretakers, the Filipinos. With the rise in human population, the creatures faced severe anthropogenic pressures such as loss of habitat from deforestation and modernism, hunting for food and sustenance, as trophy creatures from hunting, and also introduction of other foreign species such as Cattles that caused epidemics (Rinderpest) that eventually affected them.

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What made me decide to visit Occidental Mindoro is upon hearing stories about the great savanna like mountains and ridges of the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, moreover, the sighting of the wild yet elusive Tamaraw grazing on the highlands of a mountain range felt very fulfilling. Also, it is the icon of my Alma Mater, the Far Eastern University, where I spent good five years and had events wherein I chanted songs like “Let’s Go, Tamaraws!”, “Fight, Green and Gold!” , with no special meaning rather than being an icon of the university. But in a new light, with the sunset casting golden hues upon the green fields, rekindling the spirit of this chants inside the habitat of the living icon made it an enriching experience in itself. Maybe not all people will take great effort just to see this fierce creatures, so for those who take the long road leading to Calintaan to see them must share the reality these creatures are facing to those who don’t understand what it really means to survive in this cruel world. From that moment on, the Tamaraw for me was not just some university mascot, but is now a charismatic Filipino icon: resilient, strong and proud.

We then got back at the ranger station after sunset to feast on a sumptuous dinner prepared by our team leader, had ourselves cleaned and prepared for the adventure the following day.


May this article serve as a reminder that the Philippines is a rare gem that sets us apart from the whole world. We have what other countries does not have and may we learn to protect and preserve what makes us unique as an individual and as a nation. I hope that our grand kids may still witness and tell a better version of the one of a kind mountains of Mindoro, and the creatures that roam its terrains.


The Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park Adventure

2018-01-10 23.07.54

Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park – Travel Guide
The Last of the Real Ones – Mt. Iglit (1432+)
Logomakr_5P0UNA
Updated as of January 10, 2018

 

Just Like Fire – Mt. Hibok-Hibok (1332+)

Mt. Hibok-Hibok
Camiguin Island
Jump-off point: Ardent Hot Spring, Mambajao, Camiguin
LLA: 9°12′2″N; 124°40′5″E; 1332 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-5 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 3
Features: Volcanic crater, tropical forest, scenic views of Camiguin

(www.pinoymountaineer.com)


In this hot plate of an island called Camiguin lies no more less than seven volcanoes which is much more than the number of their towns. Their claim to fame, the Hibok-Hibok Volcano or also known as Catarman Volcano, an active stratovolcano that is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. I have only read this on our textbooks during elementary days, but now we will be scaling it. The volcano has five explosive history since 1827, with the last one in 1950 killing at least 500 people in the island. Although it is in perpetual rest now, signs of activity are the hot springs (Ardent Spring, Tangob, Bugong, Tagdo, Naasag, Kiyab) dotting the 10 kilometer base radius, which all counts as tourist destinations in the island.

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The Way of the Lanzones

A little dragged off from last day’s long transit from Iligan City in Lanao Del Norte, we still woke up early by 04:00 in the morning to prepare for our first ever hike to reach the crater of an active volcano. Yes, you heard it right, active! People are usually afraid of cataclysmic events such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, a few of which are triggered or are worsened by volcanoes. This geologic vents are like ticking time bombs waiting to unleash wrath and destruction to its surrounding areas. In fact, there is a station inside the volcanic complex to monitor the ever threatening activity of the imposing stratovolcano. Hiking along its terrains are highly discouraged and presents risks all the time since it is closely monitored by the PHIVOLCS, in Quiboro Volcano Observatory, located in Mambajao, 4.7 km North East of Hibok-Hibok. But what is life without a little adventure? So we decided to hike it since alert levels are not raised and also to include it in our soon to be completed list of volcanoes called #Bulkaneering101

It was still dark when Kuya Bibot Jael, our guide showed up outside our hotel with a multicab that will take us to the Yumbing jump-off of H2 (Mt. Hibok-Hibok). From where we were, the summit of the volcano is half covered by the morning clouds, that feeling of unease is always present when you can see the peak from the base of the mountain. We only planned to do a Yumbing back trail hike since one of our friends is still new to hiking so we might as well reduce the seriousness of the hike, a little notch lower. (Shout out to you, Big Ben) This made me feel a little worried since the chances of having a clearing up in there is getting lesser by the minute, but fingers crossed, we will see the whole island from there. Upon hopping into the multicab, it only took us around 10 minutes along the winding barrio roads of Yumbing before we were dropped off at the side of the road. By 5:40 am, we started the trek.

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Photo by KC Cuenca

In hiking any mountain in the island, a DENR permit should be secured first from their office in Camiguin. It’s 200php per head and in our case we already contacted our guide days prior to the hike so he was the one who secured it for us to save time. Take note also that guides are required with a fixed rate of 1200php.

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Photo by KC Cuenca

The trail was established and very similar to the ones in Rizal and Batangas, but what made it a little bit different is because of the presence of Lanzones Trees (Lansium Parasiticum) a specie from the Mahogany Family, trickled with bunches of this small and round yellowish fruits. We were tempted to pick and asked Kuya Bibot but the trees were too high for us, so we will just buy lots of it once we go down.

Mossy Hair, Don’t Care

The trail was gradually steep and most of the sections are just straightforward. After an hour, we reached the camp site so we decided to have breakfast. The weather was cloudy from where we were and worried what still lies ahead. After twenty minutes, we resumed the trek, and several minutes passed, we were welcomed by an interesting forest covered in moss. Tree cover was dense and red bulbous flowers popped out everywhere.

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Then some mosses growing out from tree trunks even looked like wigs as our guide silently whispered “Picturan mo ‘ko..” (“Take a picture of me”) that’s when we realized that it actually looks funny on him. We also gave it a try and also made fun of ourselves as we posed for photos with mosses as our hair, thus, Mossy (Messy) Hair, Don’t Care.

Around 09:00 in the morning, we reached the very crater lake of the volcano they call as the Ilihan, where one of the eruptions took place. it was a wide area with a small lake at the side, which Kuya Bibot claims to be shallow and swimming is also allowed. The area was filled with grass, ferns and dense foliage of leaves.

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Then we resumed after a quick rest to reach the highest view point in Yumbing trail. The ascent was steep, it was a rocky ridge filled with bonsai trees and other wild floras that is unique at certain altitudes like this one. Rocks (mostly Hornblende andesite and dacite) are present and most of it are sharp that slowed us down so mishaps may be prevented as we scramble our way up. It took us less than an hour to reach the view point, it was surreal from that point.

Nepenthes

After more than four hours of ascent, the rewarding view from up there was awesome. The 360 degree view of the whole island is possible, but during that time, only the crater lake was visible since the clouds came to hug the surroundings, still we are at the crater rim of a volcano!

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The area is flanked by an even sharper rock that serves as a view deck, Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes Alata) grows around the area that adds creepiness to the dank surrounding. Everything was still, no sound to be heard, not even the gushing of the wind, only our faint cries of amazement, relief and exhaustion (and “Picture!”).

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The Ilihan Crater lake as viewed from where we are is formed during the 1950 explosion that is preceded by a week of intense earthquakes. The said explosion produced a large cauliflower shaped eruption plume that triggered devastating pyroclastic flows. It eventually reached the outskirts of the town of Mambajao, and devastated homes and took the lives of the locals. Prior to the formation of Ilihan, adjacent crater sites are also formed in 1948 (Kanangkaan Crater) and also in 1949 (Itum Crater).

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Adjacent Volcanic Edifices are Mt. Vulcan ( 671m high asl, NW of Hibok-Hibok ), Mt. Mambajao  (center of Camiguin), Mt. Ginsiliban (581m high asl, southernmost Camiguin), Mt. Uhay (N of Mount Ginsiliban); Domes and cones:  Campana Hill, Minokol Hill, Tres Marias Hill, Mt. Carling, Mt. Tibane, Piyakong Hill. (Source: PHIVOLCS)

By 11:00am, we started to descend down and eventually reached the jump-off again of Yumbing by 01:30pm after two hours and a half.

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Photo by KC Cuenca

Cheers to our first ever volcano ascent!

On we go to Catarman for the second part of our Camiguin adventure.


The Northern Mindanao Travel Series – Camiguin

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Camiguin Travel Guide – En Route to Benoni – Wonders of Catarman – Allures of Mambajao – Mantigue Island
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Updated December 2016

 

Just Like Fire – Mantigue Island

Mantigue Island

Most people only visit and spend time at the White Island, missing the marine sanctuary that is just a stone throw away from Benoni Port, and if you haven’t visited this yet, there’s another reason for you to come back and Cam-iguin (Come-again!)

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Our trip from Katibawasan going down to Mahinog almost took an hour and we arrived at Brgy. San Roque in Mahinog where we hired a boat going to Mantigue Island.

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The boat rate for the back and forth day trip costs 550php good for 6 persons, and another entrance fee of 50php. There are also stalls around the registration area where one can rent snorkeling gears such as fins, goggles, and lifevests. Around 20mins of boat ride from Mahinog, we arrived at Mantigue Island, the sky is painted in bright blue hues and accompanied by the afternoon sun and clouds.

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Reefs and starfishes were seen before we docked because of its clear waters. Upon setting foot on its fine white sand, the first thing that we all agreed upon is to have lunch. Inside the island, there’s a store wherein you can buy fresh seafoods and other foods ranging from chicken to pork and have it cooked for a fee, of course the rates are higher, but it is not that bad after all.

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Contrary to White Island, Mantigue has lush vegetation that you can take shelter under the canopies of the trees around and just spend the afternoon doing nothing. The sand appears to glimmer under the intense heat of the sun, while the inviting blue waters will keep on seducing each visitor for a dip.

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Mantigue or Magsaysay Island, is a 4 hectare oblate shaped island located three (3) kilometers off the shore across Brgy. San Roque in Mahinog and is adjacent to the Bohol Sea. The whole island boasts of its evergreen stretch of Bakawan forest trails fringed with its fine white sand beach. Its background are the surreal and post card worthy views of Camiguin island and the mountain peaks of mainland Mindanao, while the surrounding crystal clear waters coming in waves, washing up the shore is really good for snorkeling and swimming.

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After having lunch, we then proceeded for another boat ride going to the marine sanctuary where the thriving marine ecosystem is a must see. Colorful coral reefs and different kinds of fishes flock the area, one must also witness the presence of large Taclobo’s (Giant Clams) in the area. What makes this island special is that it has been declared a protected area that fishing is prohibited.

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We were back in Mahinog by 4:00pm and washed up and prepared for our long travel going back to Cagayan de Oro, there are toilets around the area where you can wash up for a fee.

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Then we got back at the Benoni Port at 5:00pm and spent our remaining time buying pasalubong most especially, the island’s sweetest treasure, the Lansones Camiguin, definitely the sweetest in the country. It was really cheap in there that it only costs around 20 per kilogram, since it is in season and with the Lansones Festival coming up in a few weeks and is usually celebrated during the month of October. One must also not miss the famous yema buns filled with happiness while in the island, the Vjandep Pastel!

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Not Too Good at Goodbyes

We got back at Balingoan Port by 7:00pm, and instead of waiting for the CDO bound buses, we then rented a whole commuter van that will take us straight back to Laguindingan International Airport since we are really short on time. (2500php/trip)

Simple yet warm, Camiguin is definitely the charmer that going back again will be on your list. Such a small island filled with volcanoes, beaches, diving spots and attractions. We will definitely be back on this super island to explore it a little bit more, its remoteness and peacefulness adds up to its unique island life that even some foreigners chooses to stay in there for months and even settled down.


The Northern Mindanao Travel Series – Camiguin

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Camiguin Travel Guide – En Route to Benoni – Wonders of Catarman – Allures of Mambajao – Mantigue Island – Mt. Hibok-Hibok (1332+)

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Updated December 2016

 

Just Like Fire – Allures of Mambajao

The Naked Temptress

On our third and final day, we woke up early by 5:30am to wait for our boat ride to catch the sunrise and take us to the not so hidden gem anymore of Camiguin, the White Island. The small outrigger boat charged us 450php back and forth and it can accommodate up to 6 persons. Travel time is only 10-15 minutes before docking at any point in the island.

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White Island, located 1.4 kilometers off the coast of Barangays Agoho and Yumbing, at the northern tip of Camiguin island is an alluring naked temptress that is horse-shoe or boomerang shaped but continually changes its shape and form according to the weather and tide. It is an uninhabited white sandbar with no trees and vegetation and is only composed of fine white sand with a picturesque view of the island with the peaks of Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Timpoong soaring way above the clouds.

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The island is arguably the most visited tourist attraction, it is locally known as Medan Island or Medano Islet.

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This white bend of land surrounded by clear turquoise waters and sea grass, is ideal for swimming and snorkeling as well as sunrise and sunset watching, and ideal time to visit is before and after noon time where the heat is more bearable.LRM_EXPORT_20180105_001558

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We left by 8:30am and immediately got back on our room to pack up and headed back to Mambajao around 9:30am.

Katibawasan Falls

The second to the last destination on our Camiguin adventure, we visited one of the tallest waterfall in the country, the Katibawasan Falls. Located 5kms southeast of central Mambajao, the road going to the falls is cemented but the lush rain forest that is surrounding it is a must see. People won’t really mind the long way to the waterfall, since pot of golds are always at the end of the rainbow.

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Upon arrival we paid 20php for the entrance fee, and the entrance gate is lined up with souvenir stores selling shirts and refreshments,  one must also try Kiping, a crispy round shaped fried cracker made from Cassava flour and is drizzled with coconut jam. Katibawasan Falls is a 75 meter tall waterfall cascading from a cliff high up from a mountain wallgoing straight down into a shallow rock pool. The area is surrounded by ground orchids, wild ferns, trees and boulders.

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The water during our visit is quite murky but nevertheless it was really cold that made it really inviting, it is a pity not to swim in there as to beat the tropical heat. After a quick dip, we headed back down to Mambajao then straight to Mahinog to reach the charming island of Mantigue.


The Northern Mindanao Travel Series – Camiguin

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Camiguin Travel Guide – En Route to Benoni – Wonders of Catarman – Allures of Mambajao – Mantigue Island – Mt. Hibok-Hibok (1332+)
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Updated December 2016

 

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