In my recent short trip to Romblon, my group and I were lucky to be able to travel to Sibuyan, one of the most biodiversity rich islands in the country. From the time that we entered the island, we were already amazed at the mangroves lining the coast near the port, and when we landed, we were even more impressed by the blending of nature with the lives of the locals.
Roads were flanked by trees, rice fields were green and well irrigated and birds were happily flying around the island, their songs a fitting background music to the picturesque view that was a normal day at Sibuyan. The island itself is a marvelous ecotourism destination.
Related post: How to get to Sibuyan
Sibuyan is home to one of the most technically challenging mountains in the country, Mt. Guiting Guiting, which is part of the Mt. Guiting Guiting Natural Park. The 2,058+ MASL mountain, whose name is derived from its sharp jagged edges, is a dream climb for both local and foreign mountaineers seeking to test their skills. It has so far garnered a 9/9 difficulty level from Pinoy Mountaineer.
We were actually in the area to feature the measures being undertaken by the government to protect the area and we had no time to actually go up to the mountain to test our mettle. Still, based on our interview with park officials, we knew that scaling the summit of Guiting Guiting would be a challenge worth taking on in the future.
According to Assistant PASU Thelmo Hernandez, since Mt. Guiting Guiting has a natural park status, it is guided by the NIPAS Act which regulates activities in the mountain. Climbers are required to register with the PASU office at Barangay Magdiwang, which is the entrance of the site, to undergo a short briefing by DENR officials about the rules and regulations of entering a natural park. Guests are required to pay a P300 entrance fee per head. The fee covers the food for the guide and the porter who will join the mountaineers on their hike.
It is important to acquire the services of a guide (P800 per day for locals and P1,000 per day for foreigners) because there are parts of climb that are treacherous if hikers are not taking the proper trail. Guide to climber ratio is advised at 5:1. For those who wish to take the traverse trail and exit through San Fernando, the guide to climber ratio is required at 3:1 to ensure that proper attention will be given to the climbers.
Park officials also require climbers to bring porters as the journey is long and taxing if saddled with too much equipment. Porters help ease the burden and spread out the weight being borne by the mountaineers so that they may concentrate on the trail before them. Porter services are P500-600 per day.
Conquering Mt. Guiting Guiting takes a total of three days. The first day is devoted to reaching Mayo’s Peak (1,550 MASL) where mountaineers are advised to camp and spend the night. From here, hikers can already have a marvelous view of the sea, the mountain and the island so if they choose not to proceed with the remaining 500 meters of pure assault, it would be okay to turn back already. The following day, hikers are advised to leave their camping gear at the campsite so that they can make the 4-5 hour journey to the summit, where they will have to conquer the Knife Edge, which is a rocky road flanked by ravines; the Kiss the Wall, where climbers have to literally embrace the wall to get across; the Peak of Deception, where climbers have to decide to go through with the climb or not; the Hillary Pass, and finally the summit. But park officials warn that without proper preparation, these could be quite dangerous.
However, they say that the view is amazing from the top. Based on their description, its like being in another place entirely which makes the hard work well worth it. The view, they say is exhilarating and an accomplishment for even the most hard core mountaineer. They actually showed us a short video of what to expect for the climb — rainforests, waterfalls, rich flora and fauna, and photos of the various highlight points of the climb. It was, all at the same time scary, breathtaking and inspiring. Still, I don’t think I yet have the technical skills and stamina to make it past Mayo’s Peak, as of now.
All in all, while Guiting Guiting was only showed itself to us partially (because of the clouds obstructing the view), it was still awe-inspiring and a great addition to my unfinished business/bucket list.
Mt. Guiting Guiting, I’m going to borrow General Douglas McArthur’s famous last words, I shall return. But for now, much cardio and conditioning is needed.