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Friday, October 11, 2013

MT. PAN DE AZUCAR: A STRAINING BUT SWEET TREK

Mt. Pan de Azucar a.k.a. Mt. Manaphag in Barangay Tambaliza, Pan de Azucar Island in Concepcion, Iloilo is one of the steepest mountains in the Philippines. The humble tower of 606 meters ASL is a much more difficult ascent compared to other small mountains like Matutum, Balatukan and Malindang. It’s interesting features include its cone shape, rocky 90 degree cliffs and the astounding overlooking view of the islands.



At Iloilo airport, 4:00 PM…

I didn’t know where to go and what to do. All I knew was I wanted to trek a mountain. And I’ve heard about Mt. Manaphag. Absent a planned I.T., a solo trekker, however, can be spontaneous with millions of options.  


My spirit levitated when I spotted a tourism assistance center near the exit of the airport. The very friendly, approachable, soft spoken, beautiful Ilongga attendant cheerfully attended to my queries. I went out with a smile, lots of brochures, flyers and verbal directions stored in my head.

A shuttle van took me to Jaro for around 30 minutes.

Near the remarkable church, I took a jeep to Tagbak Terminal. A last trip bus took me to the small town of Concepcion.

After a short conversation with the bus conductor, I decided where to spend the night. I took a habalhabal to their famous “Iyang Beach Resort”. I was first refused by the innkeepers since the single rooms were all filled up. I then decided to take one of their open cottages unmindful of mosquitoes and the cold. Then a helper butted in saying “Sir, ang bakante nalang nga kuarto para sa dose ka tao, pero pwede ka kuno to. Tag P2,000 ang room pero pwede lang 250 sa imo ah. Basta, Sir, isa lang ka katre gamiton mo ha”. (Sir, the only room left is good for 12 persons but you can occupy it. It is priced at P2,000 but we’ll make it P250 for you. Just make sure, Sir, that you will only use one bed).

The gentle habalhabal driver never left me until I was secured.

After a short night plunge in the sea, the sound of a heavy downpour aided my sleep.

I woke up the next morning earlier than the sun.


The prominent view of the mountain so astounded me. I was sure that was the mountain I’ve been lusting for!





The gentle rising of the sun was a million times worth a shutter.


After basking in a crowdless beach, I checked all the rooms and cottages the resort has.








I took a habalhabal back to the town proper, took breakfast, bought trail foods and hiked to the port.

The boat to Brgy. Tambaliza departs at 11:00 am. I could no longer wait for that time. I had to climb a mountain. Then another helpful soul looked for a fishing boat.

We departed by 9:30 am.

On my way to the island, the awesome view of the islets caught my eyes.




As we got closer, the mountain I lusted for became more and more beautiful. I got more and more excited.     

I landed at Barangay Tambaliza by 10:30 AM. I was looking for a guide.

Then I met another kind man. Pastor Marcelo Balahadia offered his house for a stay. I refused to stay for a night but I temporarily left him my baggage.

When I found a guide, we headed to the tourism center and logged my name in.

The guide, with his nephew, let me choose where to pass. I opted for the closer and faster one. Then we started ascending by 11:00 am.

When we were approaching a plain rocky wall, I was so puzzled what trail to take. There was no visible trail.

Stripped of choice, I followed the trail he blazed.


We passed through the 90 degree cliffs with roots and grasses to cling to. I got goosebumps when we stopped at a very dangerous spot which he described as the falling point of a climber two years back.

“Sir, dri to nahulog tong climber nga taga-Iloilo ho. Duha pa ka semana ayha sia nakit-an. Gikaon na sang halo kag maga pispis ang lawas nya. Gituka na gani mga mata niya.” (Sir, this is the spot where an Iloilo climber fell off. He was recovered after two weeks. Gila and birds fed on his carcass. Birds even ate his eyes.)

I am not afraid of heights, but his goosebumpy tale somehow softened my knees.

The more dangerous the trail became, the more beautiful view came into the open.

It was a really difficult, crazy and death defying trek!

My heart restored its normal beat when we arrived at the summit by 1:15 pm.

 The view at the summit was not so astonishing, but I was impressed of its lush vegetation.








After eating our trail foods, we descended through the different trail, the usual trail actually.


 The sharp descending slope dictated my hand to cling to anything. Bruises and cuts are a usual prize to mountain trekkers.



Another astounding view on the other side of the mountain enlivened my eyes.


We arrived at the base by 3:15 pm.


After a refreshing sip of sprite in a sitio, we passed by the rocky beach going back to the barangay.



 The small community is really a typical image of a barangay. The folks and kids gathered at the shore, chatting and flying their kites in a fair afternoon.

Looking back at the mountain, I could outline the trail we trod on but it was so hard to figure out how we got there like a salamander. The sweat, stunts, cuts and cliffhanging sufficed my lust for the sweet mountain.    


At 4:30 pm, Pastor Balahadia was my boatman going back to mainland Concepcion. 

On our way home, I learned a lot from him about living and surviving in an island.


My eyes kept looking back at the mountain, which added to my conquered peaks.

The a portrait of a beautiful mountain would always keep me coming back.

A mountain that stuns over its nearby peaks. A mountain so difficult to summit. A mountain so arduous, so straining, so strenuous, so dangerous yet when conquered, so sweet.  

We arrived at the mainland by 5:30 pm.

 Since I missed the last trip bus from Concepcion, a habalhabal took me to the next town of Sara where I took a 2-hour trip by bus direct to Iloilo.


HOW TO GET THERE:
From Iloilo airport, take a shuttle van to Jaro.
Near the Jaro church, take a jeep to Tagbak Terminal.
Take a bus direct to Concepcion.
(If you spend a night at Concepcion, take a habalhabal to Iyang Beach Resort.)
At the town proper, you can hike to the fish port.
The boat to Brgy. Tambaliza at Pan de Azucar Island travels at 11:00 am.
Or you can hire a fishing boat to take you to Tambaliza or to go island hopping.


  

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