Culasi, Antique, Philippines — The towering and seemingly proud Mt. Madjaas, home to different species of flora and fauna, takes pride of being the one of the highest peaks in Panay Island. Truth to be told, the mountain really holds one of the most difficult trails in the country, with stony ridges filled with cogon and a very long mossy forest trail that harbors in its depths 3 different species of Rafflesia and other wild orchids worthy to be kept as a secret from the prying eyes of the world.
Legend of Mt. Madjaas
Madjaas, a very beautiful maiden, and due to this, she is being pursued by the noblest gentlemen in the land. She had gained the interest of all single men for her beauty and because of that, she gained the favor of Kanlaon. Eventually, they got married and had three children namely Batbatan, Malalison, and Maningning.
Her beauty made her into a very proud woman. She was very busy minding her own beauty and flaunting it. As a result, she became unmindful of the others and her surroundings. She doesn’t care. All she believes is that she is beautiful and fair and should be venerated by all maidens in the land. She is moody and choosy as well.
His husband, Kanlaon, on the other hand, was insolent and domineering. He was feared by all due to his temper. He wanted his children to follow him all the time.
During their long years of marriage, the family that was formed by their union was chaotic and troublesome. They fight and shout and their neighbors really got disturbed already. Such was the contention of the neighbors and their foes that one adversary, Baloy, sought the help of a wicked enchantress to disperse the family. The enchantress had cast a spell on the family causing them to turn into massive landforms. The family was separated from each other. As the wicked enchantress wished, the three children were turned into islands, separated by deep blue waters from their parents. It may seem that the three children are near her, but still very far from her grasp. Madjaas became a sorrowful woman. She constantly cries as she lost her children. Bulalakaw or Bathala found out the trouble made by the enchantress and got mad. His anger caused deafening sounds of thunder and blinding flashes of lighting that scared the enchantress who lost her magic wand while fleeting far from the wrath of the supreme ruler. Eventually, she also became a mountain herself like her husband, Kanlaon. Today, observers discovered that when Madjaas hid in the clouds, for a short while, clouds also appeared above the island of Batbatan. This reminds the people of Culasi how Batbatan resented the scornful mood of his mother.
It’s The Climb
The day of the 38th MFPI Annual National Congress came. From Kalibo, I met my friend Darwin who told me that fellow mountaineers from UP ORG are there as well. We all met at Kalibo and went to Culasi altogether the following day. I met Jacq, Rey, John2x all from UP ORG and Vien from SEGA. They are a happy, crazy bunch. It was nice to see Darwin and Regie again after a year. We met during the 37th MFPI Annual National Congress together with the other mountaineers from all over the country.
After we had enjoyed Malalison Island overnight, we then prepared for our climb to Mt. Madjaas. We brought our food provisions, water and other essentials for the climb. We went to the base camp stationed at Brgy Camancijanafter the welcome dinner by the Municipal Mayor, some 30-50 minutes away from Culasi Municipal Hall onboard the official vehicle, a truck. Upon reaching the base camp, we then registered and left some other things not really needed for the climb. After that, we headed to the jump off, Brgy Alojipan, an hour and a half away from the base camp by foot. We passed by a paved dirt road and three hanging bridges before reaching the Brgy Hall. We prepared food and our belongings and we somehow rested for a while. At 03:00 AM, we had our wake up call. I personally felt sleepy and groggy still but I forced myself to wake up and prepare my bag. At 04:00 AM we started to walk towards the trail head up the terraces. It was my first time to walk at 04:00 AM for a climb, and this is also my first time to do a Major Climb. It was an unexpected turn of events since I initially conditioned myself to climb Mt. Igcuron, a minor climb. Anyway, after much thought and motivation from my friends Darwin and Regie, I then decided to go for the Mt. Madjaas major climb. As the climb progressed, I noticed that the first of the many assaults was one of the hardest. It was a grueling assault up the cogon area, and I felt the lactic burn on my feet. I also felt a bit of double vision [diplopia] as I managed my way through the cogon area. I am a slowpoke, as they say, I don’t really speed up especially if it is hot. There are instances where I need to rest for more than 5 minutes to regain strength. At the height of the intense and unforgiving heat of the summer sun, I still managed to navigate through the difficult terrain. I went inside the mossy forest way too late than the rest of the trekking team. Thanks to my guide and sweeper, Kuya Bebot, I was able to complete the difficult ridges too. He was a jolly and highly motivational person who is an Electrical Engineer by profession and has the passion for the outdoors as well. He was, by far, the strongest of the guides. He was communicating with the team leader, Miss Marj Andres, of our progress. The first team composed of Jacq, Regie, Darwin, Rey, Vien, John2x and Richard with Kuya Lloyd and Kuya Meo [former Habagat Cebu colleagues] were already at the boundary when I got to “Baidan”, the big rock signifying that I am near a water source. We did not get by Hanggud Tubig since we are already delayed on our itinerary. My knees wobbled every time I pass the ridges covered in cogon grass but what kept me going was the burning desire to finish what I started. I always go back to the reason why I climbed this massive mountain in the first place. As the hours passed and the heat intensified, I suddenly felt numb. I didn’t bother to eat lunch since I am drinking water all the way. I only munched on crackers when I felt like it. My guide was a bit worried that I may not be able to make it, but I told him I will. By around 5:30pm, we reached an emergency camp, about 6 hours away from the summit, set up by the rest of the trekking team Tim, Ason, Ming, OJ, Nomar, Alex, Hensel and Jessie. They somehow slowed their pacing too, maybe due to the heat and the difficulty of the trails. I didn’t expect that I will be able to catch up with them since I expected that they had reached the boundary already. Since space was small, I asked if I can share with Hensel and Jessie in their tent. Good thing they agreed.
There was a question asked if we will push through with the traverse or not. I decided not to push through since it was zero visibility at the peak and I am already injured. Only Alex, Ming, Nomar, OJ, Hensel and Jessie decided to climb up the summit. I stayed at the e-camp preparing food for everyone with Ason and Tim. Day 1 was done. Everyone was really tired. We decided to cook at night before Day 2 so that they can leave early for the summit. Day 2 was spent in the e-camp without much to do but rather, watch out for tiger leeches ready to suck blood anytime. I had been very keen on keeping them out of my skin. I helped in the camp chores and cleaned our tent. I arranged the things so that when Hensel and Jessie come back, they can rest.
Day 3 was spent going down the same trail we went up. It was hard. Being fairly new to the outdoors myself, I had to push myself with motivation to go down even if it was really difficult. There are times when I need to slide myself in the trails since I will topple over if I won’t. Passing by the ridges again, I had been experiencing vertigo-like instances and the first phase of heat exhaustion. I wanted to stop walking but I need to go down. There are instances where I have to really rest for more than 5 minutes. When my ankle got sprained twice, my pacing was slowed down. But it did not deter me to walk and I endured the pain. It is risky but I have to do it. Good thing our guide, Manong Jelly was very helpful and very motivational. By 5:30 PM I was able to reach the jump off in Brgy Alojipan. I stayed there for a while with the rest of the team before heading down to Brgy Camancijan, some few kilometers away where the base camp. Every pain, every struggle and every frustration were taken away by some ice cold coke and being able to take a bath after 3 days. Mt. Madjaas has been one of my most unforgettable climbs to date so far. As a lofty mountain, Mt. Madjaas taught me the following:
- There is no room for error. One mistake can cause a life or limb.
- Reflect on your attitude. Don’t let altitude affect it. [More of this on a separate blog]
- Share what you have.
- Get out of your comfort zone.
- Do not hesitate to ask for HELP.
Here are some of my photos during our Mt. Madjaas climb 🙂
The last photo was taken by my good friend Jacq Laruan. 🙂
If anyone would ask me if I would climb it again in the future to gain the summit, I would definitely say it is a YES! 🙂
In the boom of the mountaineering scene in the country, it would not hurt if we set aside our differences and work together to preserve our environment. I know it is easier said than done. And I’ve been there, done that. Honestly, the only way we can propel progress is when we work for the common good and never to expect something in return.