There’s a relatively unknown mountain in the southern part of Cebu that I never heard of – Mt. Hambubuyog in the municipality of Ginatilan, Cebu. Mt. Bee, as we fondly call it, is a humble 820 MASL mountain peak and home to the Divine Mercy Chapel. Every year on Holy Week, pilgrims gather around the peak to commemorate the Lenten season. The narrow road is ideal for motorcycles (habal-habal) but it looked like a larger vehicle could also pass by. This climb happened recently on August 13, 2016 and I pray that my memory serves me right in the detailed account of this trek.
Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed to learn of a local climb (within Cebu region) as I am accustomed to out of town trips. For a change, I thought about keeping an open mind and see what this place has to offer. This would also serve as a minor climb to brush up on our mountaineering skills in preparation for a major traverse in Misamis Oriental. I was with my good old climbing buddies and this unexpectedly became a reunion for us. At the Southbus terminal, we took a Ceres bus bound for Bato-Barili, dropping off at Barangay Looc. We then hired a habal-habal to Inambakan Falls and paid Php50 each (we’re told later that it should only be Php30). Upon arriving at the caretaker’s cabin around 11:30AM, we paid the entrance fee of Php10/person and expressed our intention to trek the mountain. Kuya was very enthusiastic, eager even, to instruct us on how to get to the peak via the same habal-habal we rode on. When we asked for existing trails off the steep slopes, he was taken aback. With a dumb confused look, he said to us “Musubay mo sa bukid? Mura na mo ug mga mountaineer ana” (You want to traverse through the mountain? You’ll be like mountaineers). Wait…what? We don’t look like mountaineers? I let out a small unnoticed laugh and glanced at my friends. Here we were, carrying our large climbing backpacks, wearing durable trek pants and hiking shoes – the typical ensemble – yet apparently we looked like some fun-loving tourists who’s only there for the waterfalls. Don’t get me wrong. It didn’t offend me or any of us, we just found it rather amusing and could almost pass the joke of the year. These people have lived here most of their lives that exploring the mountain is totally boring and not really a big deal so we understood where the confusion was coming from.
After the rain stopped, we headed to Inambakan Falls to get a glimpse of their most popular natural attraction. A few clicks here and there then we took our lunch in one of the tiny cottages. We already bought a packed lunch earlier on to save time. At almost 1pm, we crossed a small river and started trekking uphill. We had no guide, only a Garmin GPS for navigational assistance. The hike was quite exhausting because of the heat. Nowadays, you seldom find a mountain in Cebu with opulent trees – the main reason I’m indisposed to climbing locally. In my humble opinion, the best and meanest mountains with thick forests are found in Negros and Mindanao where most of them are protected watershed. The good thing though was that the locals were very polite and approachable when we asked for further directions. We’re like “Yeah it’s not so bad at all, people had the same opinion of the trail”. But we soon found out that the trail no longer existed as it was blocked out by farmers. A modest farm of corn replaced the once conspicuous trail which made our exploration harder. Loose rocks and the potential damage to the crops added up to our many challenges. We had to be careful not to step on the corns or we risk a lower yield for the farmers. Applying the process of elimination, we scattered in all four directions to find the markings of old tracks. We did find it in the least expected route that was covered in bushy vines and shrubs.
Halfway through the peak with the sun setting in the west, we were offered a spectacular view of the neighboring islands of San Carlos City, Negros Province and Tañon Strait. Before 5pm, nearly 4 hours since our ascent, we had reached the peak of “Mt. Bee”. The peak is an open land that resembles a moor because of scarce trees and lush vegetation. Locals made it a grazing ground for farm animals so don’t be surprised to run into piles of dung and cow patties.
At the peak, one friendly local greeted us with saccharine smiles and offered his house as temporary shelter. We courteously declined and preferred to pitch our tents in the hill. Spring water is available downhill but make sure to keep your distance when doing your thing (e.g. brushing your teeth) to avoid contamination. Better yet, fill up your containers and take it to the camp site to ensure cleanliness of the water source. We had a hearty meal that night. It did not rain, not even cold, but in the wee hours, some of us were woken by the growling noise of a dog biting and pulling out Ronald’s bag. He put his bag outside his tent thinking that no domestic animal will come astray. The next morning, our left over foods were gone and some of our tools soiled. This was reminiscent of our Osmeña Peak climb where local canine pets devoured some of our foods. Lesson learned.
The next day after breakfast, we prepared to descend the Bee and quickly stopped over at the Divine Mercy Chapel. Little did we know that this was going to be one of the hardest descent we ever had. This part straddles the border of Ginatilan and Samboan. Our plan was to take the long and winding road to Oslob because of its proximity to the national highway. Concrete paths are sometimes difficult to descend; I’d rather walk on dirt roads rather than well-developed pavements. After all, that’s the challenge that most, if not all, mountaineers seek out. It was literally a hike under the burning sun. Some motorcycles passed us by, wondering why we burden ourselves walking when we could easily take a habal-habal. Finally, after a taxing hike and a pair of bruised knees and swollen feet, we arrived at the national highway. That was some serious hiking done for 6 hours and 17 kilometers. I would still like to go back there someday to join the pilgrimage at the Divine Mercy Chapel, not by foot of course but by car.
P.S. I no longer have the accurate itinerary for this climb but know that it’s only a 4-hour ascent, maybe less depending on your speed. Of all the things I could forget, it had to be my camera. Really?? All photos are courtesy of my supportive friends Ronald (L) and Coi (R).