Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bukidnon: Lost and Delirious in Mount Palaopao

The instruction from the man tending the Sumilao Food Court stall where we ate our breakfast was short and simple: just walk through the rice fields, go downhill and follow the trail all the way up. And it came with his assurance that we will not get lost. As I and my three hiking buddies Tupe, Dax and James made our way towards the paddies, Mount Palaopao appeared not too far away, the distance to its foot looked so near. We thought this day hike may just be a walk in the park. Little did we know, we’re in for a surprise.

After passing through the rice land, we came along a deep ravine. What we expected to be a gentle downhill turned out to be steep and narrow path, going all the way down to a bridge hanging over the Kulaman River. The view at the edge of the cliff was already breathtaking, and so was our descent which followed shortly.

We met some local folks along the treacherous path. A man carrying two branches of durian tied to opposite ends of a bamboo pole and a family going home from an early day in the farm. Again, we asked instructions on how to reach Palaopao’s peak. Again their answer was plain and simple, "just follow the trail".

We crossed the hanging bridge and entered Sitio Palaopao, a small community nestled at the mountain’s foot. The hike on this part was easy due to the existing dirt road that we could follow. It wasn’t the same though when we reached the wooden San Roque Chapel.

As the trail branches out to different directions, we chose what looked like a clear and established route. And this is where we first got lost. For in a little while the road halted to a dead end and we came face to face with the rocky mountain walls. At this point we realized that unless we're properly skilled and equipped for some rock climbing, there's no way we could reach Palaopao's peak. But then we're too ecstatic with the massive view of the rock walls that we didn't really mind getting lost at all.

The overcast skies shielded us from the sun as we backtracked and discovered another route. We crisscrossed through corn and peanut farms, passed by some really scenic views and then discovered that we're lost again. We just laughed off our exhaustion and consoled ourselves of the beautiful sights which we wouldn't have seen if we didn't got lost.

We decided to trailblaze our way up a steep and rocky slope. It wasn't easy but the solid grounds provided some traction while the deeply rooted  grasses are strong enough to hold on to. Tupe, the most experienced hiker in our group, suggested that we move towards the left. Until finally, we found it!

A bamboo cross planted on the side of the visible trail made us believe that we're already on the right track. Palaopao, after all, is a Holy Week destination in this side of Bukidnon and the cross we stumbled upon is most probably one of the 14 stations. So following the "way of the cross", we easily made our way to the first peak where a concrete cross painted in white stood.

It is here where we relaxed and ate our snacks. The two-hour hike made us all tired but still we have a long way to go. The sun was already up though we could hardly feel its heat due to the fairly strong wind blowing up above. So after filling up our tummies and soothing our arid throats, we made our way to the second and highest peak.

The trail that followed turned out to be the most difficult part of the route--a ridge along a very deep cliff, covered by bushes and sharp rocks. With Dax and James leading the way, I carefully followed their path, often times squatting low to keep my balance. 

After the only tree-shaded portion, it was another open trail then another steep ascent before we finally reached the second peak. A large and rustic wooden cross marked the spot and the view below was simply exhilarating. From here, we could clearly see the highway road, the Sumilao Public Terminal and Market Complex, the poultry farms, the evergreen fields of rice, corn and pineapple and even the cliff and river we passed through. On the opposite side are the adjacent peaks and more pineapple farms down below.

It was another successful climb for me and my trail buddies, our second in three-week time. It was such a wonderful experience discovering new trails and seeing another side of my home province from up above. Just like our previous climb in Mount Capistrano, it wasn't as easy as what we've previously thought. Though we got lost a couple of times, it made us discover wonderful sights which we wouldn't have seen otherwise. And conquering it's summit was, indeed, a very sweet reward.

Getting There:

Mount Palaopao is located in Sumilao, Bukidnon. It can be clearly seen from the national highway of Barangay Kisolon. From Cagayan de Oro, take any bus bound for Bukidnon and disembark in Sumilao Public Terminal. You can start your hike at the back of the Public Market. Walk along the rice fields then descend through a deep slope and cross the hanging bridge going to Sitio Palaopao. Once you reach the sitio, ask the locals for direction in going to the peak. There is an existing trail though it can get confusing and some portions are covered by grasses. Locate this bamboo cross at the back side of San Roque/Christ the King chapel and follow the "way of the cross" all the way up:

Paiyak Cave, an ancient burial cave, can be found in Mount Palaopao. We failed to locate it during our climb though, so we have another reason to go back. : )

For first timers, it is better to hire a local guide. If you need one, you may contact Kisolon Barangay Kagawad George Jeremy Baula at 09152737218. There are no established guide fee so negotiate with your guide first before starting your hike.


  1. This will be useful for the readers. Anyway i really appreciate the effort of making this kind of post. I am very happy to find this bolg. Thanks for creating the page

  2. Hi! How many hours of hike going to the hanging bridge?

    1. Hello! Less than 30 minutes from the highway up to the bridge.


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