Piercing through the sky in Central Negros is Mt. Kanlaon, the highest point the Visayas and one of the largest active volcanoes in the country. Its slopes are lush with dense tropical jungles and its summit is marked by a magnificent yet desolate crater- a testament to its destructive past. Culturally, Kanlaon is a significant and central part of local mythology, named after supreme deity Kan Laon; it’s said to be the center of the universe, the crater a portal to other dimensions. I flew to Bacolod with a couple of friends to climb up this imposing, yet beautiful, volcano.
We all met up early in Bacolod City and we took the first Ceres Bus down south to La Carlota where we purchased supplies for our expedition. The markets were bustling, as Maskarra preparations were ongoing in nearby Bacolod. We stocked up on fresh vegetables, chicken and rice and had a hearty breakfast at a local carinderia. The sun was bright, the skies were blue, and casting a shadow on us was the mighty Kanlaon, towering above the clouds. Needless to say, optimism in a successful trip was high! We got on a jeep bound for Guintubdan, a quaint farming community on Kanlaon’s slopes and our trailhead up the mountain. After one last gear check, we donned our packs and made our way towards the start of the trail.
The first couple of hours or so were through lush montane forests. It was a gradual ascent up towards our first rest stop, Buslugan Falls. After refilling water and a few photo ops, we made our way to the first campsite. The trail started getting steeper and steeper as the jungle engulfed some parts of the trail with large roots and fallen logs. It was just about noontime when we arrived at the first campsite where we had a quick lunch break. The weather was turning for the worse and dark clouds rolled in. We quickly flipped on our rain jackets and pressed onwards towards the saddle campsite. The trail became noticeably overgrown and several parts were 90-degree ascents up roots and logs. It started pouring when we finally made it to the saddle campsite just before sunset. The saddle is directly below the summit crater but heavy clouds engulfed the summit and drastically limited visibility to a mere hands-length. We hastily pitched camp and prepared our Sinigang dinner. We went to bed early, as we all prayed for better weather the next morning for our summit assault.
The night was frosty when I awoke. I opened up the tent and I was greeted by a still breeze. I looked up and shining down on me was a grand display of stars; I was overwhelmed and happy that the weather cleared up. A quick glance at my watch said it was 4:30AM. I boiled water for coffee as everybody started waking up and we were all jubilant with the clear skies. We geared up for the summit assault and slogged up the last slope towards the rocky crater. The sun was just starting to peek from the horizon as bright hues of orange and yellow scattered throughout the sky.
The last few steps as we approached the summit crater were indescribable; seeing the crater slowly unfold before my eyes was a profoundly humbling experience. The crater of Kanlaon is an immense gaping hole where the dregs of the earth are exposed in all its vast and desolate glory; I couldn’t help but feel consumed by nature’s immensity. The sun was already floating above the horizon when the entire team reached the summit. As the sun permeated through the lowlands below the mountain, we could see as far as Cebu and Panay; the lofty Mt. Talinis, the second highest mountain in Negros near Dumaguete, was towering above the clouds down south. Nearby Guimaras was surrounded by slow-moving cargo ships. Almost directly below us were the distant city lights of Bacolod, almost like the view from an airplane.
We all gave each other hugs as we realized that we had made it; we were standing on the highest point in the Visayas. For some of us, it was a continuing pursuit of the highest peaks in Philippines. For others, it was a continuing chase of all things beautiful. But for everyone, it was undoubtedly a profound little memory in our communal journey that we call life.
Javi Cang is a young finance professional and an all-around adventurer. A recent graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, Javi spends his free time hiking up mountains and planning future expeditions. His bucket list includes climbing up a Himalayan peak. You can follow his adventures at instagram.com/javycang and javiercang.tumblr.com