Mt. Mandalagan Unveils its Secrets

I thought I had enough of my mountaineering adventure until I was transported in a verdant forest so unfamiliar yet enchanting. I thought it was a dwelling place of dinosaurs some million years ago. I thought I was in Mowgli’s lavish jungle ecosystem. Well, describing Mt. Mandalagan (1,885 MASL) and the treasure it possesses is beyond I could ever write in this blog. As a humble travel blogger, allow me to unveil Mt. Mandalagan’s secrets as they revealed to me right in my very eyes.

Lives herewith are Nature’s Army
I couldn’t believe that after three years of hiatus in a major climb, I was getting ready for Mt. Mandalagan. I was determined and geared up with the challenge of conquering it. Like that of an army geared up for a battle, I also saw nature’s little army in Mt. Mandalagan – the bloodsuckers called “leeches”. The “alimatik” became Mt. Mandalagan’s known secret. As much as our group cautiously trekked in the jungle, we were also careful about these creatures.

Tinagong Dagat and its Hidden Beauty
Approximately six hours of trekking, we then reached our campsite. The hidden valley revealed a subtle still water before us. Tinagong Dagat (Hidden Sea) may impose an ironic name for a lake but it does describe an unexplainable behavior – rising and waning of its water like that of a sea. The swooping mountain fog enveloping the lake made it more mysterious while surrounding the lake is a luxuriant ecosystem – tall grasses, and century-old trees. Indeed, Tinagong Dagat is Mt. Mandalagan’s best kept secret.
"Contemplating of what I had done and what I would be doing at Tinagong Dagat, Mt. Mandalagan"
"That's happiness only nature can give." 
Photo by Thor
"Another great shot of Tinagong Dagat by Thor"
"The sky that night was painted with stars and the group lulled by Gaea's love." 
Photo by Reymart Aguilar

Deep in the Jungle
As we passed by Tinagong Dagat the following day because we were hiking up to see the Solfatara, Mt. Mandalagan allowed us to explore more of its beauty. It led us to a rocky boulder then to a swampy jungle. As we went deeper to the forest, beautiful cascade of waterfalls greeted us. The mossy forest took us to another heightened excitement as we were technically climbing up the mountains’ other face. Then another hour of hiking brought us to another attraction.
"It was just the beginning of the deeper mossy forest." 
Photo by Kier Navarro
A Cloud of Sulfur
Solfotara or Sulfatara is derived from a Latin word which means “land of sulfur”. Mt. Mandalagan is a potentially active volcano with a vigorous volcanic activity. Every now and again, vents release sulfur smoke which from afar is a huge cloud formation. Witnessing this vivid activity was a sight to behold!
"The Kaladkarin starting from left to right - Edward, TL, Ria, Apol, Angel, Thor, Joan, Ryan, Reymart, Kim and Kier at the back."

A Myth that Was Lalahon – From the ancient folklore, Mt. Mandalagan is part of the Negros Trilogy of Mountains including Mt. Kanlaon and Mt. Talinis. Negrenses had it that the “daughter” of Kanlaon exuding with beauty also frequented in Mt. Mandalagan. As described, Lalahon could somewhat turn fierce (thus the volcanic activity) and damaging.

Getting there:
1. See my article: Bacolod and the Scribbles of a Hesitant Cebuana Traveler for a complete guide to Bacolod.
2. From Bacolod, arrange a trip going to Brgy. Cabatangan. If you are familiar with the Campuestohan Highlands, then it is just approximately 200-400 meters away.
3. Since I was together with the group, we met up our guide at Bacolod City. His facebook name is Otil Adassam. You may send him a private message to arrange your climb.

Things to remember and do:
1. Most of the climbers were afraid of leeches or alimatok. First thing, we must be thankful for alimatok since they are mid-level consumers - both a predator and a prey. However though, if humans are bitten with leeches, some became panicky. A quick remedy to leech bite is to dig in your fingernails from its oral sucker. Quickly flick it away. You may also wear leech socks or something that is bright and thick which extends up to your torso. Leeches detach its oral sucker once it is satiated with blood (bloodsucking may last up to 20 minutes). Others prevent leech bites by rubbing salt, strong insect repellent and even caustic soda and lemon juice. Well, I took the pleasure of holding it. Leeches are totally slimy but fun to hold. 
2. It is a major climb so prepare necessary climbing gears. It would start with a subtle ascent passing through a water canal. Be careful with your balance. It would get slippery. 
3. The campsite is at Tinagong Dagat. The crater lake is a beautiful sight however, when the rain is heavy, campers are advised to pitch tents meters away from the lake. 
4. Be prepared for a technical climb when trekking up to Solfatara. You will be made to go down by a rope in a vertical inclination. You would also be climbing up boulders leading to the "land of sulfur".
5. When you are at sulfatara, don't forget to enjoy with caution. It has loose rocks which might get you slipping down. Especially if vents are releasing sulfur steam, always make sure that you don't inhale so much of it. Staying at the area for more than 60 minutes, may cause airway obstruction. Sulfur has a pungent odor and is irritating to the eyes. Be prepared!
 6. As always in my blog, always observe LNT Principles (Leave No Trace). Mt. Mandalagan is a commendable rainforest - so clean and verdant. Let it stay that way.

*Special thanks to my fellow climbers. I couldn't thank you more enough for making me part of the team: Apol, Kier, Ria, Jumz, Ryan, TL, Thor, Kim, Edward, Reymart and Joan (aka Team Kaladkarin).  

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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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