Organically grown crops shatter the science of farming, eternally baffling my taste pallets on how such home grown tiny tomatoes can taste so good! With such culinary weapon inside our bellies, Ro and I started our day descending Amburayan River, before tackling the behemoth that is Mount Amanayao.
To this day, I haven’t found a person who has heard of, or even explored the southern side of Mt Amanayao. I’m not claiming I’m the first non-local to have done it, but to have found this route was something I’m most definitely proud of. It’s a mixture of luck, extreme perseverance, and total disregard to my well-being. Let’s include insanity for good measure. This discovery is still the dumbest/bravest (I go back and forth) thing I’ve ever accomplished.
From Amburayan river, the base of Mt Amanayao, it will take you 7-8 Hours to reach the first community in Kibungan on top, testing your endurance for non-stop steep ascent, tolerance for heat exposure, technique for a new trail, compounded by an occasional but VERY REAL psychological fear of actually falling and hurting yourself.
After two hours, you will arrive at a little community nestling at the lower half of the mountain, surviving on the waterways perfectly provided to sustain their scattered rice paddies. The well-maintained trail ends here, and although the path we used was a local trail, the political divide of the towns of Kapangan and Kibungan made these obsolete, severing ties between communities, keeping the traffic to a few local who shepherds their cows and goats above.
When humans neglect their foot paths, the forest gobbles it up. How much it took back was a mystery for me for I haven’t used this trail for exactly one year!
We got lost several times and even on the There’s-Absolutely-No-Other-Trail-But-This parts, I’m always questioning its accuracy. Even if my familiarity with the topography of this side of Kapangan and Kibungan is extensive by now, how can I justify trekking on very steep grassland, where the overgrowth forces you to step on piles after piles of grass rather than an actual tangible land, all this while being barbecued under the sun!
At one point, Ro screamed. She slipped a little. She placed her footing on a loose earth. I was terribly scared. She just laughed it off. Oh you have to meet Ro. I have known her only a few days before I took her to Mt. Amanayao. I didn’t know she was a Legend. (Yes Ro, Yes. You. Are). If you are the second woman to ever traversed Mt Mantalingajan in Palawan, yes, you are a legend in the hiking circles! Haha!
On treks like this, it was great I was with someone like her, someone I don’t need to worry about. It takes a toll being a team leader, and knowing you can trust your buddies’ abilities and skill is essential in focusing on the areas that matters. And in Amanayao, focus should never drop from 100!
So is it worth it? The Trek of Mt Amanayao? There’s no guide here yet, and as I’ve described, I consider it one of the toughest 8 Hour Ascent anywhere in the country. But what makes Amanayao very much unique is the transition of environment from the Amburayan River, all the way to the top.
BUT after that inferno grasslands, you will be transformed into paradise! Yes, you read correctly, it sounds so cliche, but can you really blame me for using it?
Amanayao always rekindles my passion for trekking with its methodical mixture of difficulty, aesthetics, and cultural immersion. That’s the price of genuine beauty; brutal and herculean efforts. It’s a courtship and she’s fine lady.