Last 2013, I happened to visit the hinterland and forested barangay of Kaatuan in Lantapan. I was with Ben, Bon and Estan. We accompanied Ben in a protected area of Mt. Kitanglad Range to install tarpaulin boards informing the public about rafflesia. We saw some buds of the flower which were about to bloom in a month or weeks. But after that, I never had an update about them.
In the last week of May 2014, I saw a post by Ben with the giant flower in full bloom. I also heard the same blooming period in Maragusan, Compostela Valley. Ben also showed some buds which will surely bloom in a short time.
One fine holiday, I was thinking where to spend my free time. I remembered the gigantic flower and didn't think twice to visit the area. So I contacted a friend to take me to the area and off we went.
It was about 10:00 am when we arrived in Lantapan. I wasn't sure if there was a blooming flower that time. I just took chances. I contacted some officials and looked for a guide. I approached a local in his house and asked about the flower. He called his little son and asked if the flower is in bloom. The little boy told me that he guided rafflesia watchers the day before so my heart was leaping in victory.
The little Coby accompanied me to the area. We hiked around 600 meters from his house. Midway, another lad, Jimboy, was running his way to us. We passed through the fields until we reached the forested area and the entrance to the rafflesia garden.
When we entered trough the bamboo gate, the little lad showed me the gigantic flower in full bloom. In awe, I couldn't stop pressing my shutter.
I requested Jimboy to take me photos with the wonderful creature. The area is a sharp slope and is really slippery. I hardly found my way to get close to the flower. I embraced the mud and the rotting leaves. The kids even challenged me to sniff on the flower, which smells like a dead rat, for their laughter. The foul smell is evidenced by the presence of blue flies.
I also pictured my young guides who made my day.
Enjoying the glorious sight, the hands of the clock sped up really fast. Before we left, I captured the flower in its minute details and marveled how it is designed so intricately.
Two black cabbage-like forms are budding in the area. In weeks, these two will also unleash thier full glory.
After spending an hour, we left the place and trekked back to the barangay.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST:
When visiting Kaatuan, take time to side visit the following:
1. Cinchona Forest Reserve
2. Century-old Chapel
3. Ruined Japanese Houses
4. White House Camp Site
5. The 5-series Waterfalls
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Malaybalay, drive to Alanib, Lantapan (past the Poblacion) and take the rough road to Barangay Kaatuan.
From Malaybalay, take a jeep bound to Lantapan. Hire a habal-habal direct to Barangay Kaatuan.
DON'T FORGET TO ASK PERMISSION FROM ANY BARANGAY OFFICIAL OR BANTAY GUBAT BEFORE ENTERING THE PROTECTED AREA.