One rainy Thursday afternoon, I sat alone inside my tent wiping residual poop off my shorts while trying to ignore the painful rumbling in my stomach. This was not how I envisioned spending my time on Mt. Kanlaon but well, shit happens, sometimes literally.
It was the second day of our climb and we were stranded in the campsite due to bad weather. We all had to come up with various ways to pass the time. Dave found amusement in listening to local radio in a vernacular he didn’t understand but found extremely funny nonetheless. Dante discovered that wet wipes were non-biodegradable. The rest slept, woke up, and slept some more. I alternated between curling up in pain from dysmenorrhea and running out to take a dump due to diarrhea. Fun times.
Before it spiraled into an episode of unbearable boredom and disgusting maladies, the trek actually started on a high note. We were all excited to climb the famous Mt. Kanlaon, the highest peak in the Visayas and the country’s largest active volcano. This mountain in Negros Occidental is as beautiful as it is dangerous. Local guides tell stories of climbers who fell to their deaths after a misstep on its deadly cliffs. A sudden eruption in 1996 killed seven mountaineers. For thrill-seekers however, the promise of picturesque views and gratifying adventure far outweigh the risks of climbing Kanlaon.
Our first day of self-indulgent thrill-seeking began with a stunning sunrise and clear skies. The weather was good and the morale was high that we didn’t mind that we were an hour behind schedule. We started the trek at 8am on an open trail, passing through farms and grasslands, before entering the forest line.
There are various routes that can be taken in climbing Kanlaon. The Wasay-Guintubdan trail which starts in Mambukal in the town of Murcia is an intense hike through pristine forests. The route we took, the Mapot-Mananawin trail, passes through Makawiwili Peak which features a magnificent view of the summit and the Margaja Valley below. The jump-off is in Sitio Mapot in Canlaon City, about three hours from the provincial capital, Bacolod. While the Mapot trail is rated lower than Wasay on the difficulty scale, the steep slopes and continuous assaults still make it a physically demanding climb.
We reached Makawiwili Peak at around 2:30pm and were promptly blown away by the ethereal panorama. I’ve seen quite a few breathtaking views in my past climbs but the landscape of Kanlaon was something else. It was like a perfect painting that came to life, a masterful combination of hues, textures, lines and lighting that only the most meticulous artist can conceive.
Our giddy excitement was tempered by an important dilemma we had to resolve. Our guides, Kuya Caloy and Kuya Islaw, insisted that we set up camp on Makawiwili Peak. They said the next campsite, the PMS Lagoon, was a flood zone when it rained and Pagatpat Ridge was still four hours away. A night trek would be too risky, they said.
Camping on Makawiwili would delay our itinerary and at 3pm, there was still a lot of daylight left for trekking. Our team of eight was divided into two sub-groups on the trail, with a 15 to 20-minute gap between the two. The guides felt the second group would have a hard time catching up if we pushed on with the hike.
As a general rule, I always follow the guide’s advice since they know the terrain better than we do. This was the one time I broke that rule. While the second group was slower, none of the guys were injured or looked too winded. After a lot of discussions, we decided to continue the trek and head for Pagatpat campsite.
I was silently hoping and praying that we made the right call. This was my first time to act as team leader on a major climb. My sorry ass would be on the line if we got this wrong and something horrible happened. Maintaining a steady pace with no breaks, all eight of us reached Pagatpat by 5:30pm. I couldn’t more thankful or relieved.
Pagatpat was a forested campsite that had ample space for at least seven tents. As it turned out, it was as good of a place as any to get stuck in during bad weather. We woke up to a heavy downpour and strong winds the next day. We weren’t going anywhere.
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Epilogue, Lessons Learned and a Million Other Things I Want to Say (misadventuresoftintin.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Two (misadventuresoftintin.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Three (misadventuresoftintin.com)