Saturday, March 31, 2018

Travel Guide: Palaopao Hills and Paiyak Cave in Bukidnon

Palaopao Range straddles the borders of Sumilao and Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. The hills and its massive rock walls can be seen prominently from Sayre Highway in Barangay Kisolon. Its highest peak stands at approximately 892 meters above sea level and most of the hills are characterized by grasslands and rocky outcrops. Within Palaopao Hills is Paiyak Cave, a massive cavern which was used as burial site of Sumilao's lumad ancestors.

Palaopao Range is a popular hiking destination especially during the Holy Week. Its has established trails which are not that technical making it suited for newbie climbers looking for a moderately challenging hike.

Here's a travel guide in hiking Palaopao Range with information on how to get there, registration and guide fees and what to expect along its trails.

How to Get There

Barangay Kisolon landmark with Palaopao Range in the background. 
Jump-off to Palaopao Range is at the back of Sumilao Bus Terminal and Public Market situated along the highway of Barangay Kisolon. It is about 60 kilometers if coming from Cagayan de Oro City and 30 kilometers if coming from Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

The trail starts at the back of the public market where you need to pass along the narrow footpath of irrigated rice fields.

 As the trail is mostly open, it is recommended to start your hike early.

The path will take you to a deep gorge where Kulaman River can be seen down below.

It will be followed by a long downhill which leads down to the hanging bridge over Kulaman River. Do remember that this easy downhill would turn to an agonizing uphill climb once you finished hiking Palaopao and go back to Kisolon.

The hanging bridge connects the residents of Sitio Palaopao to Barangay Kisolon. This serves as an important link for the residents to sell their agricultural produce to the market as well as purchase goods for their basic needs.

After crossing the bridge, simply follow the road until you reach Sitio Palaopao proper.

It is required to register the name of the climbers on the logbook. Sitio officials may ask for some monetary donations for the maintenance of their hanging bridge (Php20.00 to Php30.00 will do). You may also ask around for a local guide. Though a guide is not strictly required, I recommend getting one as this will not only ensure you hike on the right track, you also get to provide income to the locals whose main way of living is only through small-scale farming. Based on experience, it is difficult to locate Paiyak Cave if you climb the range for the first time. Hiring a local guide would make your hike is worth the effort as you will not only summit the peaks but also get to explore the cave. Guide fee is only Php300.00 per group.

  Due to the intense summer heat, ashes of burnt grasses are all over the trails.

Always take your time to appreciate the view.

There are wooden crosses placed along the trail as Palaopao Range is a popular hiking destination during the Holy Week.

The trail to the top is open, flanked by grasslands and littered with rocks.

The first peak is marked by a concrete cross.

We took a breather here and enjoyed the panoramic view.

The majestic Kitanglad Range can be seen looming over the flat lands.

After a few minutes of rest, we proceeded to traverse to the next peak. Extra care must be observed in taking steps as portion of this trail is along a very deep cliff.

The short descent was followed by another steep climb.

Until finally, we reached Palaopao Range's second and highest peak. The spot is marked by a tall wooden cross and overlooks the rice lands and Barangay Kisolon down below.

We rested on a shaded area to refuel and rehydrate. As with any trail hike, it is important to bring along trail food and water to stave off hunger and prevent dehydration. Extra calories are much needed to sustain long hikes.

After a short recovery, we traversed to the the adjacent shorter hill. As we want to explore Paiyak Cave we have to descend on the other side of the range as it is where the cave is located.

A long downhill along a forested trail followed next. The trail is narrow and steep but the good thing is that the trees kept us shaded from the heat of the sun.

When we arrived at the entrance of Paiyak Cave, I was instantly amazed by its huge cavern.

 Though short in length, I found it very impressive with gigantic stalactites hanging on its ceiling.

On the adjacent cavern, accessible through a narrow hole, are the preserved skulls and bones of lumad ancestors. Paiyak Cave is believe to be a burial site during the ancient times.

After exiting Paiyak Cave, we simply followed the trail which took us to the sides of the hills.

We passed along the massive rock walls which can be seen from the highway. The intense heat was taking its tool on our tired bodies. Fortunately we, were already on our descent back to the sitio.

It was almost noon time when we got back to the Sumilao Public Market. Tired and starving, we took our lunch at the food court and treated ourselves to this refreshing 40-peso halo-halo dessert!

Things to Remember:

1. Wear proper hiking attire and make sure you are fit enough for the long hike.
2. Bring some trail food and at least 1.5 liters of water as there the no water sources on top of Palaopao Range.
3. You can buy your food and drinks at the Sumilao Food Court or at the few sari-sari stores in Sitio Palaopao.
4. Be courteous to the locals and respect their culture and traditions.
5. Guide fee is Php300.00 per group. I recommend hiring a local guide to help them earn some money. Sitio officials may also ask for monetary donations for the maintenance of the hanging bridge.
6. After your climb, you may also want to cool off by taking a dip at Kulaman River. Click this LINK to read our previous experience.
7. Lastly, don't leave any trashes behind and take your garbage down with you for proper disposal. Always practice the Leave No Trace mountaineers' ethic.

Related Post: Lost and Delirious in Mt. Palaopao


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