Life in Iloilo
More than just a small province
The Philippines is a country full of beautiful natural treasures such as beaches and mountains. Exploring the country known as the Pearl 0f the Orient Seas will take you a long time as it is full of surprises and adventures. And although most people are only familiar with big cities such as Manila and Cebu, the small cities and provinces also have much to offer. For example, the province of Iloilo.
Iloilo, found in the Western Visayas, is a province composed of 42 municipalities and 2 cities. The province is diverse in culture and tradition. It is also filled with mountains and beaches. The place is filled with adventure and heights waiting to be conquered and oceans to be dove.
My whole life, I have lived in the city, only knowing the sound of vehicles in the morning and having tall buildings as my window view. Despite the family trips we would take to the beach, I have only grown accustomed to city life. I have never been the type to climb mountains and go to the beach on my own accord.
However, as I entered college, my campus is literally on the mountains and I was forced to stay on a dormitory. I had no choice, but to live on the mountains. As time passed, I grew to love the mountains and eventually wanting to climb taller mountains. I did my research and was able to find a mountain in Igbaras.
Mt. Loboc, Igbaras
A mountain not everyone knows
Igbaras, a small municipality nestled in between the municipalities of Miag-ao and Guimbal, is home to five mountain ranges. Namely, they are Mt. Napulak, Mt. Loboc, Mt. Taripis, Mt. Opao and Mt. Butuan – Pulang Lupa. I did my first climb here with a few friends at Mt. Napulak, but wanting to do more, I decided to do a solo climb, only with a guide to take me.
Deciding on a day trip, Mt. Loboc was the way to go. With an elevation of 1,000 meters above sea level, it would be an easy day climb. I contacted Nong Jaime, a well-known mountain hiking guide in Igbaras and we set a date for my climb – February 28, 2018.
The day before the climb, I have done some grocery shopping, buying health bars, fruits, bread, water and some canned tuna. After packing up, I couldn’t go to sleep early as I was excited to hike. I tossed and turned and eventually fell asleep. After what only seemed like minutes, my alarm goes off and it was time to go.
Since I was staying at my dorm in Miag-ao, I had to take a jeepney, get off at Guimbal and take a small tricycle, a motor bike with a side car, to Igbaras. Once I got there, I logged in at the municipality and we took a single, a local term for a motorcycle, to Barangay Igcabugao, the jump off point. From there, I logged in again at the house of nong Jaime and we set off for the hike.
A peak worth the journey
Joined by his two dogs, we braved the heat of the 8 AM sun and started our trek uphill. There were no trees, just grass, making the climb harder as the sun glared directly on us. Every now and then, we would stop upon my request and take a break to rehydrate ourselves.
At the time of the climb, I was heartbroken as I just broke off a friendship and was going through depression. I thought of the hike as my soul searching trip, which I have told nong Jaime beforehand. At first, it was silent between us, with only his music making up for the lack of our conversation. Eventually, I started asking him some questions and got to know more about his personal life. Nong Jaime has been climbing mountains since he was nine years old and that it was in their family to climb mountains. He recently graduated from college, but he doesn’t have a job other than being a tour guide for mountain climbers as that was his passion. He climbs mountains almost every day and he loves going on adventures. I also told him bits of mine, how I was going through depression and how I was lost in life not knowing which path I should take and whether the one I was on was the proper path. He told me that in climbing mountains, there would be several paths that could lead you to the same place, but there were also ones that could make you lose sight of your destination. He said that I needed to choose wisely in order to arrive where I wanted to go.
We continued the climb like this – me telling him life stories and what I have been dealing with and him giving me life advice. His two dogs walked ahead of us, leading the way towards the peak. I grew more and more tired and impatient as we climbed longer and I kept asking him how long ‘til the peak. He would always answer with “it’s near” or “not too long” now.
Finally, after more than three hours, we were near the peak. The final ascend to the peak was a very steep climb. I almost gave up there as I was already very tired and the heat of the sun was not helping at all. But nong Jaime kept telling me not to give up and so, I didn’t and after another 30 minutes, we finally reached the peak.
The first thing I did upon reaching the peak was to scream – I screamed all my frustrations and feelings out and that was relieving. When I was done, we sat down and ate food and took some pictures. We stayed there for about an hour and a half before we decided to descend.
After descending the mountain, we took another ride on a single motorcycle to head for a side trip to Nasadjan Falls, a prominent waterfall in Igbaras. Once, we got there, we had to take a 15 minute walk on rocks to reach the waterfalls.
Upon reaching the falls, I hurriedly jump in to cool down and swim for 30 minutes or so, enjoying the clean and fresh water while nong Jaime and the driver waited. When I was done, it was time to head back to reality.
We took a single motorcycle again back to the main part of town where I could ride a jeepney and as I handed them my payment for everything with a small tip. Before I got on the jeepney, nong Jaime asked me if I found my soul, to which I answered yes, but it’s damaged. He then told me “That’s okay. Next time, you come back to climb again to heal it.” And those were words I would never forget. To this day, I haven’t been back to climb again, but I still remember that unforgettable solo mountain hiking trip of mine.
Iloilo’s Hidden Gems
Mt. Loboc is only one of many
The Philippines is more than just Manila and Cebu – small provinces such as Iloilo exist, too. Iloilo may seem like just a small province, but it has great surprises in store for you. Climbing Mt. Loboc has made me realize that I don’t have to travel too far just to find an adventure. Most of all, Igbaras is not the only place that can bring you great adventure, but also all of the other 41 municipalities to choose from. Mountains, beaches – you name it, Iloilo has it. If you want to visit a place with a city, but that’s also not to far from nature, Iloilo is the place for you.