Mt. Kanlaon: the guardian of Negros Island


Discovering the beauty of western visayas has been nothing short of amazing! Initially the plan was to climb up Mount Talinis in Dumaguete with friends from a local mountaineering group cuernos de negros. Our time there was coincidently  interrupted by an insurgency in the low-lying part or the natural park. We were advice not to pursue our plan on trekking up the mountain apparently there were military operations being held around on some parts of the mountain. Time not being on our side the group decided to go for plan b. the next day we threw in our bags in the underbelly of the ceres bus and hopped on towards the city of Bacolod. It took us about 5 hours to get there and by the time we were on the city we had to find another mini bus that will take us to the town of Murcia where will be our jump off point for Mt. Kanlaon.

Kanlaon or also spelled as Kanla-on or Canlaon is an active stratovolcano located in the island of Negros in the western visayas. The prominent mountain can be seen from the neighboring towns of La Carlota, Silay and the capital city of Bacolod. Dividing the negros occidental and negros oriental the mountain has a towering elevation of 2,435 meters above sea level and the natural park has been gifted with wide array of flora and fauna. Topographical feature has also been a major part of its allure, the volcano offers hot springs on the foothills and as you slowly move up it has quite a number of lagoon and moving up further one can experience a mystic scene from an old crater to a wide caldera of margaja valley and the prominent north summit were one can see the active lugud crater.  No wonder it has been visited by a number of local and international mountaineers and folks from distinguished universities abroad to study the behavior of an active volcano.

The volcano has been putting up a long list of eruption dating back pre-Hispanic era and recently been showing up with  phreatic explosions resulting in minor ashfall around the natural park. Amidst the beauty that this place offer we cannot discredit the fact that it has also claimed lives from its sporadic eruptions including the 1996 kanlaon tragedy. For this reason the local government urge mountaineers to collaborate with the phivolcs when attempting to climb up Mt. Kanlaon.

Day 1 Wasay Trail

On the early morning the warm sunlit lake of mambukal resort has brought some signs of a promising day. We were all packed and ready and started our journey to a network of trail. Trudging our way through mossy forest  and fording lagoons and skirting old craters. It was a full day of heavy load and cutting through the thick forest of wasay trail and finally after 6 hours of trekking we took a respite in a place called “hardin sang balo”  apparently meant “garden of a widow”. It was an old crater and now filled with bonsai trees and it was lying on a damp and soft mossy ground. It looked like you were transported in a mysterious place where branches of trees are covered with thick moss and green foliage complements the blue sky it was like a place where a pre-historic creature can come up from somewhere. After finishing our packed lunch we resumed trekking passing through lagoons and ridges. As the light slowly fades into the horizon and darkness creeps in, we took out our headlamps and slowly paced ourselves to the campsite. we fell quite short from our itinerary by getting to the saddle camp by 7pm , instead we got there almost on midnight. The wind kept blowing like sheets of ice while we struggle to pitch our tent. Finally after settling in we had a sumptuous dinner to replenish our energy for the morning’s summit bid.

Day 2 Summit

A peek from my tent window I noticed a warm tone casted on the moist leaves. It was a glorious sunrise I hear birds chirping and flying freely into the orange sky. I even see spiders  cooling down from its cobweb.  A cup of hot coffee alongside with a wonderful view of margaja valley still covered with mist was one of many cinematic play nature has unfolded on that morning. We left camp after breakfast and slowly moving our way to the summit. From green underbrush now becomes bed of rocks. A sudden topographic change was significant. There were no vegetation around, it meant that nature has been consistently changing the landscape of this mountain. Eruptions for thousands of years have made this part of the summit lifeless but amidst the bare façade there was a sign of life. As you enter near the mouth of the crater, fumes of sulfur can be smelt from. life has somehow connected to fire and beneath the belly of the volcano are lava flowing in fiery epic proportion. it has shaped our land for thousands of generation. It made me think how puny human being can be in the face of nature.

The summit was clear from rain clouds and we can see the whole negros island from a 360 degree perspective. We were told by our guide that Kanlaon rarely showed its visitors the beauty of its crater and the scenic view of the margaja valley below. I say, we were lucky to have experienced mt. kanlaon on a perfect weather. Shortly after we descended back to our campsite and took the guintubdan trail. It was a fast 5 hour decent from the saddle camp, stopping by waterfalls and being pestered by blood thirsty leeches. By late afternoon we were on the village of guintubdan, greeted by friendly locals and offered a feast of native chicken for dinner. We were grateful to experience this part of negros with beautiful places and friendly people. As we bid farewell to our new friends we promised to return soon and relive the beauty of negros experience.

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