The Hike for Light (H4L) project is being undertaken by the Philippine Solar Foundation to provide solar lamps to those communities living near the mountains that has no access to electricity. In cooperation with Kaya ng Pinoy and the 1st Philippine Mt. Everest Team, the project aims to summit 6 of the country’s highest peaks with 200 climbers and distribute 500 solar lamps to change the lives of those communities.
So I slip, landed on my butt with legs between a tree trunk at an elevation of 2,000 meters in a 60-degree sloping ravine as we made our way into the Margaja Crater near the summit of Mt. Kanlaon, the country’s 3rd most active volcano and Visaya’s highest peak.
Fortunately, nothing broke, organic or otherwise and I was up again after checking the condition of my camera to continue the descent towards the flat plains of Margaja Valley, an old crater of Mt. Kanlaon.
Towering majestically at 2435 MASL (meters above sea level), the stratovolcano is part of the so called Pacific Ring of Fire that straddles the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, approximately 30 km southeast of Bacolod City. A favorite spot for mountain climbers and is the centerpiece of Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park, a park originally established on August 8, 1934.
The most active volcano in central Philippines, Kanlaon has erupted 26 times since 1886. Eruptions are typically phreatic explosions of small-to-moderate size that produce minor ashfalls near the volcano. On August 10, 1996 however, a group of 24 mountain climbers was on the summit of the volcano when Kanlaon suddenly erupted without any warning that resulted in 3 fatalities with the rest being rescued by the local authority.
“Mt. Kanlaon holds many important aspects in the lives of the people of Negros. Culturally, Kanlaon is central to the royal mythology, named after no less than Kan Laon, the supreme deity. Some tribes also hold Kanlaon to be center of the universe – its crater a portal into the unknown source of fire and energy. Children also grew up to the legendary tales of “La-on and the
Seven-Headed Dragon”. In which, a dragon appeared from the mountain, wreaking havoc in the whole island. In order to appease the dragon, the people had to sacrifice one beautiful maiden each year, until they have run out of women, save for the king’s daughter. The King, agonized, offered a reward to anyone who could kill the dragon. Then comes a prince named La-on, whose affinity with nature and animals helped him slay the dragon – winning the princess’ hand and
earning the mountain as a tribute for his feat, hence Kan Laon, meaning “The Exalted” Laon, later becoming Kanlaon.” – from pinoymountaineer.com
The team arrived at the town of Guintubdan, our staging point at around six-thirty in the morning, ready for the climb ahead. With me on this climb are the legendary Fred Jamili, Leo Oracion and Janet Berlamino (1st Filipino and Filipina that summited Mt. Everest), members of the Philippines Solar Foundation, and volunteers from the Negros Youth for the Environment and our guides and porters. Art Valdez, leader of the Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition Team was there to see us off.
The ascent to the campsite took nearly 8 hours crisscrossing a rainforest of overgrown ferns, fallen tree trunks, sprouted mushrooms, inedible red berries, thorny vines, and bloodsucking leeches. Yes, leeches, centimeter-long nematodes during the first half of the trail that surreptitiously attached themselves to your body. With two rest stops to refill our water – one in a waterfall and the other from a shallow pocket of collected rainwater, the steady climb was both leisurely and challenging. It helps that no rain has fallen for the past 2 days prior to our climb; otherwise the trail will definitely be made more muddy and slippery.
It was almost 4 in the afternoon when we reached the campsite; here the air is laden with humidity and temperature at a bearable 16 degrees Celsius. Mists constantly engulfed our camp, but just as swiftly blown away by the prevailing breeze. From our basecamp, the summit of Mt. Kanlaon, a good 30-minute hike away, stands before us teasingly. Below the slope lay again the Margaja Crater and beyond it, the equally splendid Makawiwili Peak; we were literally standing on the shoulder of a giant!
Plain hot instant noodle never tasted so good at seven thousand feet! The after dinner socials leave me spinning figuratively as I retired to my tent, unmindful of the still festive mood of the waxing moon directly above.
It was still dark when I woke up the next day; the lights from the coastal towns of Cebu Island across the Tañon Strait still glimmers. A light rain must’ve fallen, everything appeared wet and moist, and haze was everywhere.
With a hot mixture of coffee and cereals for warm up, the assault for the summit commenced. Knee-high glassy slopes gave way to barren terrain as loose rocks make the climb more difficult as we approach the peak. What seemingly felt like the longest 30 minutes of ascent, finally came to a close. There, the unmistakable triangular edifice that is part of Mt. Kanlaon’s crater rim came into sight; below it, a ravenous drop, the fearsome crater of a slumbering volcano.
As I stand there, transfixed in this mighty creation of Mother Nature, one thought came to mind – this will not be a good time for an eruption!
We spent a total of 20 minutes at the summit and it was time to return to camp. After breakfast, and making sure we did not leave any trace of garbage behind, started our descent. It took another five hours to reached Guintubdan and by that time, my leg muscles were already in pain and my ankles felt like they were about to buckle.
The arch-like bamboo at the edge of the road looks like a finish line for me; and in a way, it really does. For as much as the climb was a success, it was also a personal triumph of physical proportions and humbled in a sense that we did not actually conquer a mountain, but it was the mountain that welcomed us.
The next day saw us back at Guintubdan where the actual turnover ceremony of the solar lamp was held. A total of 80 units were distributed and the team hopes they will be the light that makes a difference in the lives of those people it shine.
All VRs taken from December 3-5, 2011. Reference: Wikipedia.org. Portions of text from pinoymountaineer.com. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org