Monday, December 10, 2007

Blazing the Leyte Mountain Trail

Trips - Leyte Mountain Trail, Province of Leyte
Blazing the Leyte Mountain Trail
by Bot Villalobos edited by Robert Gardner
from the

Trekking in the Philippines is a relatively new sport. To encourage its development, the Ministry of Tourism and the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (NMFP) have been surveying backcountry areas through the NMFP's member organizations.

Among the sites identified as suitable trekking areas are Mt. Apo near Davao, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, Mt. Madja-as in Antique, Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Occidental, Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Romblon, Mt. Iriga in Camarines Sur, Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon, Mt. Pulog in Benguet, Mt. Banahaw in Quezon, and Mt. Makiling in Laguna.

A new addition to this list is the LEYTE MOUNTAIN TRAIL which winds through thickly forested ranges and valleys, criss-crossing one of the province's primary rivers, the Marabong.
The establishment of the Leyte Mountain Trail started with speculative surveys made by an Australian tour agency with the help of Philippine Airlines (PAL) Tours and Promotions Office.

With the eventual involvement of the Ministry of Natural Resources, University of the Philippines (Tacloban), Leyte Sab-a Basin Development Authority, Province of Leyte, and the Association for Research, Exploration and Air (AREA) the 40-km trail was blazed in May 1982.
With about 150 participants, resthuts were built along the trail from Lake Mahagnao northward to Lake Imelda. During 16 days of hard work by both the locals and the Australians, 5 of the 7 planned resthuts were completed according to Steve Koch, consultant to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

On August 16, 1982, the NMFP retraced the trail blazed just three months earlier. Representatives from the different mountaineering organizations joined the trek which was sponsored by member agencies of the Leyte Mountain Trail Executive Committee.
Individuals who completed the trek include Jerry Celucia, Danny Montaniel, Timmy Toledo, Neri Alfonso, Roni Alfonso, John Fortes, Ben Sevilla and Orly Victuelles (PAL Mountaineering Club); Yol Fernandez, Rey Paviers and John Anglo (San Augustine Mountaineering Club--Bacolod); Edwin Gatia (Philippine Mountaineering Society--Bacolod); J.G. Laurente (Mountain Muscle--Cebu); Nano Into (MACADAC - GEMS - Davao); Peng Peralta (Mayon Mountaineers--Legaspi); Rommel Guttierez (UP Mountaineers--Manila); Nestor Temana (Antique Mountaineering Society); Myra Repulda (Ministry of Tourism--Tacloban); a lady research officer and warden from the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD); and the writer who represented the Philippine Alpinist Association. Mr. Ted Fernandez of the BFD acted as guide.

The long hike through the Leyte Mountains is a rewarding experience. Ferns, lilies, aerial plants, tropical shrubs, and birdlife abound throughout the primary forest encompassing the entire trail. The river system is a prominent and interesting feature of the trek. From Mahagnao, the trail goes down to Guinaniban Falls, which flows into the river, and from here frequent river crossings are necessary up to the second resthut.

The Lake Mahagnao area has been popular with foreign tourists because of the abundant birdlife. A resthut that can accomodate 35 to 40 campers sits on the shore of the lake just below the barrio of Mahagnao.

At the other end of the trail is Lake Imelda National Park which covers an area of 2,047 hectares. The lake itself measures about 144 hectares and is 565 meters above sea level with its deepest point reaching 180-m. A resthut on its eastern shore can accomodate about 40 campers. The park is accessible from the town of Ormoc by taking a jeepney bound for Ga-as, a barrio 4-km beyond the lake, and get off right on the eastern shore. The warden's office is located directly across the lake.

The Leyte Mountain Trail is a challenging hike through rugged but beautiful terrain. The journey can be accomplished in eight days but if you don't have the time or inclination, a visit to one of the lakes at either end would be a worthwhile venture.

1 comment:

PinoyApache said...

I have been part of a group of Cebu mountaineers who have blazed a trail in Mt. Pangasugan in Baybay, Leyte on July 31 to August 5, 1992. That was an epic climb by the Cebu Mountaineering Society that is recorded in their annals as the hardest yet and it created a great bond among ourselves after that. We survived that trek after the guide lost the trail by jumping over five high waterfalls of the Guintanguisan River.

What to do in Tacloban City, Leyte and nearby

Enjoy the scenic San Juanico Straight . Rent a kayak for a day and paddle your way round the bay of Tacloban, under the beautiful San Juanico Bridge. Kayaks are for rent for around a thousand pesos a day.

Waterfalls in the City
A recent discovery , a majestic 30 ft waterfalls hidden in the mountains of Tigbao and Salvacion just4 Km. outside Tacloban . Maps towards the waterfall site is available. A day trip for picnic and swimming is most ideal.

Nearest to Tacloban is Sohoton National Park in Basey just off San Juanico Bridge. The Tourism Offisce in the Municipality of Basey provides excellent tour guides for a hassle free caving. Ideal for non professional, amateurs, and family trips.The one-man adventure outfit of Joni Bonifacio provides professional caving for the more advetourous. Explore the three caves of Jiabong in one day. The ultimate Langun – Gobingob Cave in Calbiga offers more for serious spelunkers. Langun-Gobingo expedition is usually a 3day – 2 night from one end of the cave to another, but an shorter trip can be tailored. Calbiga is one hour away from Tacloban. Jiabong is an hour- and a half trip from Tacloban

Wall Climbing
Bukid Outdoor Shop offers wall climbing. For 60 pesos you can climb till you drop. They also sell outdoor gears for hiking, camping, mountaineering, and surfing.

Three hours away in Calicoan Guaian E. Samar, is a surfing paradise. Blessed with the thundering waves from the Pacific, local and foreign surfers throng to ride the waves of this new surfing capital. Not to mention that Guaian boast of long stretches of white sand sans the crowd and vendors. A laid back town, with friendly people, and a rich history. Do not miss the historic 300 year-old church in the town plaza.

Skimboarding in Tanauan
The secret is out, Tanauan and Dulag towns in Leyte offer the best spots for skimboarding. Tanauan is a 30-minute jeepney ride from Tacloban while Dulag is an hour away. The town of Tanauan is touted as the skimboarding capital of the Philippines. The town hosts the Tanuan International Skimbording Competition which is held every Easter Sunday of each year. Skimboarding gear is available for rent.

The Leyte Mountain Trail is an outstanding trekking area which starts from the Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park of Burauen to Lake Danao Natural Park in Ormoc, a distance of approximately 40 km. This rainforest tour will cover the beautiful lakes of – Mahagnao, Malagsum, Casudsu-ran and Danao. The spectacular Guinaniban Falls is not to be missed. From the crest of the central Amandiwing Mountain Range is breathtaking view of mountains, forests, plains and the island of Samar and Leyte. The Leyte Mountain Trail houses a profusion of tropical flora and fauna including colourful insects, butterflies, dragonflies, bugs, giant millipedes, deers, wild boars, monkeys, birds, orchids, and giant ferns.

Tongonan Hotsprings National
Tongonan Hotsprings National ParkLocated in Ormoc City, 123 km. from Tacloban City (also accessible from Kananga). A valley of geothermal power source that can supply electricity to the whole region when fully developed; cool and relaxing climate; first geothermal power plant to operate in the Philippines.

Lake Danao
Lake DanaoLocated in Ormoc City, 125 km. from Tacloban City. A violin-shaped lake 2,100 feet above sea level and 3 km, long; hemmed by cloud-capped-mountain ranges of undetermined depth; wild animals roaming its surrounding forest; hunter’s paradise; lake said to be the habitat of giant eel.

Cuatro Islas
Located in the towns of Inopacan and Hindang, Leyte; plus pumpboat ride. Four lovely isles namely, Digyo, Apid, Mahaba, and Himokilan bordered by white sandy shore; surrounded by beautiful coral gardens, the best in Leyte island. A total of 287 species of reef building corals can be found in the islands waters; rich fishing ground. Himokilan is the largest island of the Cuatro Islas where the big delicious coconut-cracking crabs called “tatus” are found.

Mt. Pangasuhan Ecopark
Mt. Pangasuhan Ecopark is located in Brgy. Pangasuhan, Baybay, Leyte. One of the few remaining virgin rainforests in the Philippines. It is richly endowed with diverse flora and fauna, many of which are considered endangered species like flying lemurs and tarsiers; a unique and precious ecological asset.