TRAVEL: Experiencing Palaopao: the mountain and the village

A view of Mt. Palaopao The author after an early morning climb of one of Bukidnon's famed 'rocky mountains.' Photo by Crystal H. Flores

A view of Mt. Palaopao
The author after an early morning climb of one of Bukidnon’s famed ‘rocky mountains.’
BukidnonNews.Net photo courtesy of Crystal H. Flores

MANOLO FORTICH, Bukidnon (BukidnonNews.Net/05 January 2015) Catching up one more mountain to climb before 2014 ends is a fine idea.

Our Destination: Mount Palaopao, in Sitio Palaopao, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

In 2013, Sitio Palaopao won over 191 other sitios as the “best sitio” in Manolo Fortich town in northern Bukidnon. The sitio (village), which has 50,000 hectares of agro-forestry area with a landscape characterized by an interval of vegetable gardens and small houses, is beautiful.

It is located at the foot of Mt. Palaopao. If you travel along the national highway in between Sumilao and Manolo Fortich, that’s the rocky mountain southwest of the highway.
We headed for Kisolon Terminal at 2:35 in the morning via Rural Transit and forgot about the bombing threat to public buses last December 27, 2014. Having no available seats for us for an hour trip preset our legs for an unexpected high-level challenge of Mount Palaopao.

I regretted not bringing a trekking pole and for not checking my headlamp’s battery as we started the trek at 3:50 dawn.

We – Jenny, Crystal and I, were led by four young residents of Kisolon to a trail in the midst of rice paddy fields. Few stars were above us. Moist grounds were beneath us. The first challenge was a ravine that demanded great effort from me. I was a bit shocked because descending in the first part of a mountain trek is not favorable to my knees. Upon reaching the hanging bridge over Kulaman River, my legs were already exhausted. In few minutes we would be assaulting the very stiff rocky mountain.

Mount Palaopao is a local tourists’ destination especially during Holy Week when people from the plains look for a place where to spend the Lenten season.

On top are erected crosses which also served as landmarks. The trail in going to the top was unexpectedly difficult. I felt like stripped off from gears.

I wore no gloves. I had no trekking pole. The sharp piles of rocks lying beside the trail are the built-in camouflage of the mountain. I chose to slow down my pace while double-checking the position of my PNW waterproof backpack (I used to make it as protector of my back in case my steps would miss).

The mountain is covered with cogon grass and is broadcasted with blackish rocks. You can also see Orange spots in many areas due to clayish soil. There are no shade-provider trees along the trail. Clouds became our natural shed over breakfast at 7:40.

As the clouds moved, we saw the beautiful landscape below that include bunches of houses, the poultry, the pineapple plantation, the vast rice and corn fields, the rice paddy fields and the like.

We took pictures. We took moments of silence. The erected cross reminded me of the sanctity of the Bukidnon mountains.
I was eager to go down back to the plain to take pictures in that hanging bridge over Kulaman River (as it was still dark when we crossed it on the way up). As usual, the descent took me more effort to finish the stiff trail. I halted for many times to take a rest and to take snapshots.

After more than an hour we were then accommodated by the people in Sitio Palaopao with few stories about their community. The president of the out-of-school youth organization, Rene Aresga, was so proud in introducing their vegetable garden project that made them win among the sitios of Manolo Fortich.

Part of their plan next year is to build dorm-like houses to accommodate visitors who would explore Mount Palaopao. Beyond the erected crosses on top lies a cave which bears many local stories about the community; and this could also encourage more climbers to visit the sitio.

As of now, Rogelio Angcay, their leader, is busy mobilizing the people in preparing their community for the yearly evaluation which is set on January 2015.

The children in the community use the hanging bridge in going to school. Their 6 o’clock in the morning routine would land them in school just on time for the flag ceremony according to a 10-year old boy I have talked to. They go to school in groups perhaps to form a company in traversing the slippery and stiff ravine.

The hanging bridge over Kulaman River BukidnonNews.Net photo courtesy of Crystal Flores

The hanging bridge over Kulaman River
BukidnonNews.Net photo courtesy of Crystal Flores

I took my dose of fear passing through the hanging bridge without taking even a glimpse of the raging Kulaman River. I admired the school children who used to make the river sound a signal of their departure and arrival for the sake of education.

On the way back, the ravine then became friendlier to us because the sun was up. The shade from the bamboo welcomes us back in the plain. A fine dining in a nearby food court completed our Mount Palaopao experience.
On our way home, I realized I always feel fine with a mountain.

I took my seat in the bus where I got a perfect view of Mt Palaopao. From this day on, I will always have a meaningful glance to this mountain. This thought put me to sleep, all the way back to Malaybalay.

Now, I am ready to face 2015. I’m ready to climb other mountains.(Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan/BukidnonNews.Net)