Lataban Hills: A Start-up Hike for First Timers

“Get out there and hike!” Yes, I am talking to you. For few of my readers, I want to appear as persuasive as I can. The smell of the wilderness is different from that air-conditioned room of the malls. The trails of the mountains are too contrasting from the pavements you walked on in the urban jungle. There is something exhilarating in the forest which is more than the ride in the amusement park. With this, let me bring you to the northern part of Cebu where first-timers could see the beauty of a sunrise, the horizon that separates the sea and the sky and the overlooking green hills of Lataban.
"Hail the sun that brightens the day...
Let its sunlight awakes the gloomy heart at bay.
Hail the sun that rejoices with the Earth,
Feed the soul with gladness..with glee. -2nd time in Lataban Hills"

A 15-Peso Trip
            It was Saturday afternoon of 2017 when I immediately punched out from work and headed directly to Brgy. Lataban, Liloan. I was informed by a student who happened to be a resident in the area that they have an attraction similar to the infamous Chocolate Hills of Bohol. Again, the very mention of a hill set my endorphins to shoot up. I quickly searched some information about it and walked from my school to Bajac, Liloan market before I caught a ride to Brgy. Lataban.

Between the Hills
            The 3-kilometer walk was a warm-up until I rode the motorbike going to Brgy. Lataban. The journey was a transition, itself. From the busy public market, I was transported to a remote area of Liloan where I was literally traveling in-between hills. The 10-minute ride stopped at the barangay hall and the gym. I asked the residents where to go up for Lataban Hills. With friendly smiles of the old folks, I started my afternoon escape to see the Chocolate Hills of the North.

Ang Buntod (The Hill)
            The residents of Lataban called it “buntod”. Well, that is the Visayan term for a hill. It wasn’t so difficult for me to ask for directions because the start-up hike was filled with residential homes and the people were too willing to tell me which way to go. After almost 500 meters, tall grasses welcomed me while leading me to another view of the hill – green bushes with thorny branches. I came up with a forked path and I had to choose which way to go (one straight down and one plain).
"Yes! Dared it with doll shoes and some casuals when I did hiking for the first time in Lataban Hills."

"The hut stood still in one silent afternoon. On my second visit, it was no longer there."

"These droplets are so close to the famous one, Chocolate Hills."

            Finally, I reached my destination. Lataban Hills welcomed me with an approaching dusk. I was overwhelmed by its sight - droplets of other hills, the calm and serenity of the ocean, the islands of Lapu-Lapu and Olango plus the horizon that seemed to me a mirage of a never-ending quest. Lataban Hills possesses a simple beauty yet beholding.

Towards Kang-isid Falls
            I wasn’t alone when I arrived in Lataban Hills. There were students and a kid who were hanging out. The boy approached me and asked if I was going to Kang-isid Falls. I didn’t exactly know about the falls but again, curiosity triggered me. I asked if he was going there and if I could come with him. Later on, he agreed with his mom’s permission.
"Kang-isid Falls is a delicate beauty."
"And it never fades...- Kang-isid Falls for the second time"

            The boy passed through the left side of the forked path (one straight down). As we descended, there was a different view of the hill - lush greens, tall Anahaw trees, and some more hills. I finally heard the moderate roar of the waterfalls. At last, a tiny waterfall just approximately three meters high unveiled its exquisite beauty. Like that of Lataban Hills, Kang-isid Falls is a simple attraction to behold.

Nature has a lot of surprises!
            Well, nature has a way to deepen my understanding of its beauty. It led me to its other forms – hills, mountains, rivers and waterfalls. It was an afternoon delight wrapped in a simple package. It was an afternoon hike accompanied with calm and simplicity. It was a personal paradise for me escaping the mundane and routine field of work. I loved that one Saturday afternoon. Lataban Hills and Kang-isid Falls vividly opened my mind that even in the chaos of life, simple and beautiful things never ceased to exist.
"Be it in the morning or in the afternoon, the view is extraordinaire."

Tips on First-Timers:
I knew that my in blog on Mt. Lanigid: A Beginner’s Guide, I didn’t get so much technical in hiking. It was a boost of confidence for first-time hikers to go out and try easier and simple trail routes. Here, allow me to expand more about hiking for beginners.
A.   Your Purpose. However simple the hike maybe, always begin with an end in mind. Ask yourself why do you want to hike? What benefits can I get from it? Am I just part of the bandwagon or am I truly dedicated to hiking? Do I have enough knowledge of the wilderness? These questions will allow you to think deeply for your reasons to climb.
B.   Plan and Prepare. As the first Leave No Trace Principle, you should know that even how fun the activity is, there are necessary things you need to prepare. Ask yourself if you are physically fit. How much run do you need to do for you to establish endurance for a 5-hour hike with a light pack? What are the necessary things you need to prepare in a day hike? What time should I start or my group starts hiking? Do I know the LNT Principle by heart? Am I oriented on Outdoor Safety? Do I have basic knowledge of Trail Signs? Planning and Preparation will save you from any dangers of the wilderness.
C.   Outdoor Safety. First, leave information to your loved ones before beginning to hike. Give them your phone number, which place you are going and what is your expected trail, approximate duration of your hike and the people you are with. Second, learn to follow instructions. If your guide asked you to stay a meter away from him then maybe he meant that twigs and/or branches he is holding could snap. Always be careful in the entire hike duration. You might be your guide’s responsibility but you are still liable to your own self.   
D.   Trail Signs. Initial knowledge on different trail signs plus your common sense will save you during a hike. When two branches crossed in a certain trail, then it means you can’t pass through. If you saw some piled up rocks, then it means you either turn left or turn right. Common knowledge on trail signs is essential to note especially if you are going for a long hike.
E.   The LNT Principle. I want to iterate what my hiking buddy told the class during the LNT part (See Nature Pedagogy at Sirao Peak). In Visayan term, she said, “Ang Leave No Trace sa Bisaya pa kay ‘Ayaw Pagyama-yama’. Never cause damage to nature. Always respect what it has to offer.
F.    Addendum. If you felt disappointed about the view because it was not what you expected it from the photos, then what right do you have to hike? Hiking is appreciating things. Hiking is appreciating yourself that you can do things beyond your comfort zone. There is always beautiful in simple things. If you didn’t like the view then keep your comment to yourself.

How to Get There:
1.    Assuming you are from Mandaue Highway, take a ride for Liloan and ask the driver to drop you off to Eskina Bajac (Bahac). Fare is 12-15 pesos.
2.    From Bajac (Bahac), Liloan, take motorbike ride to Brgy. Lataban. Tell the driver that you will be hiking to Lataban Hills. Most drivers I had taken a ride with were friendly. They are also proud about Lataban Hills. Fare is 15.00 pesos only.
3.    From the Barangay Hall, just follow the path towards the chapel. A cemented pathway will lead you to Lataban Hills. It is just a 20-30 minute hike. Greet and respect the locals. They are willing to guide you to Lataban Hills as well.
4.    From Lataban Hills you can traverse to the other side dropping off to Kang-isid Falls. The hike will somewhat take another 30 minutes. Kang-isid Falls is swimmable. So, you can freely wade in its waters.
5.    You can either choose to back trail Lataban or you can opt to continue your hike exiting Purok Gemilina, Cabadiangan, Liloan. Later on, I found out that you can visit both Lataban Hills and Mt. Lanigid in a day. Just start early.

Note: The best day to start hiking is before the sunrise. Since Lataban Hills is located at the Northeast of Cebu, you can witness a glorious sunrise at the horizon. I experienced it when I did my second Lataban Hills hike traversing to Mt. Lanigid and river trekking Mulao River and Rock Formation. While at Barangay Mulao, I happened to talk with fellow hikers/triathletes/duathletes that there is a trail used during the XTerrra Race starting off in Lataban. With that in mind, I would be exploring this trail on my next weekend getaway.

Enjoy hiking!
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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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