There’s always something special about exploring new natural attractions, is there not? Whether or not you’ve seen it on pictures, read up on it accidentally while browsing the internet, or even had people tell you awesome stories about it, there’s nothing like experiencing it firsthand. Such exploration will give you thousands of impressions. But what will stand out is the first impression you’ll have that has a special spot in your memory bank.
Every mountain has its own spectacular views that imprinted on our very souls. Views that are absolutely noteworthy and ostensibly caught us off guard. This had us when we explored Mt. Minandar.
CHASING SUNSET ON DARK SKY
Dark grey sky and threatening rain welcomed us at the jumpoff area. I don’t remember this having on our itinerary. Maybe Mt. Minandar sensed and knew someone unfamiliar are lurking in its foothills. But that paandar (menaces) of Mt. Minandar didn’t waver our mountain souls on scaling its glory. So, we prepped ourselves and our guide lead the way to the trail.
We started our trek very late in the afternoon and still hoping for a good weather, if the mountain won’t give us sunset, on our way to the summit. The trail led us to hectares of caramel brown and rich cornfields that are ripe for reaping on harvest season. We passed and met several local homes and greeted each other with a gleeful smile. It’s such a typical countryside scene where local kids are fetching galloons of water from a nearby well, elderly women cleaning their yards, and children scampering on the crop fields during dusk. It feels nostalgic. The smell of the dried leaves burning made it even more nostalgic.
The sky was getting darker and the clouds were threatening to take that glorious downpour anytime. Still, no sight of the sun’s golden rays before it’s magnificent dip on the horizon. We knew we don’t have this snowball’s chance in hell of witnessing the sunset, but at least summiting Mt. Minandar as dry as a bone would suffice the demise of the sunset view. With the dwindling time we have, we opted to make the trek as fast as we could. Gradually, the trail turns into a slightly sloping one that we started vomiting air for once. The cogon grasses lining up the trail acted as a magnet and our butts were but steel drawn attracted to it.
After a short break, we pushed our limits as the time pressure was mounting. We traipsed through coral stones on the trail, passing a definitive array of a forest of coco trees. Definitely, that is a great sight as the trees are beautifully aligned for perfection. Below these towering tropical plants is a blanket of cogon grass that alone splendidly enrobes the whole Mt. Minandar. We can’t help but to stop and take photo ops for a while. The coconut trees and cogon grasses perfectly match on the frames of our cameras. Just before we left the forest of coconuts, the golden rays suddenly struck the fields of cogon grass.
MAGIC ON ROLLING HILLS
The warm feeling of the king’s last-born rays caressing our faces as he pierced through the dark grey sky unto Mt. Minandar made the whole scenic view magical. Cold breeze creeping in added to the sensation of the warm rays. It was truly magical being stuck in the middle of the mountain surrounded by lush greenery and looking on the unexpected sunset view. We stared in disbelief. Time stood still as the magic embraced our human vulnerability. We’re in a state of oblivion, saying nothing and just staring in appreciation. Mountains have this magic that always works on me. It came when we less expected it.
From where we stood, we were able to vividly see the stark silhouette of Mt. Minandar at its finest. Strong sunlight flashed the neighboring hills creating a visual spectacle that certainly amused the mountain souls in us. Its contrasting shades made the terrain rolling to the eyes. Mt. Cabalalaan from afar stood majestically as the sunlight poured thoroughly giving profound mysteries to the surrounding mountain ranges.
The light slowly dripping unto the shoulder of Mt. Minandar creating spectacular silhouettes of trees and its elegant curves downhill. Orange skies to pink skies, the king’s rays exhibited the grandest show to finally cap the day.
On ankle-to-waist-high cogon grasses, we continue to summit Mt. Minandar in hopes to see a more magical show atop. On its shoulder, a more verdant terrain appears as a lush green paradise overlooking the views of Bongo Island peacefully settling on Illana Bay, the quaint city of Cotabato with the conspicuous Grand Mosque on plain sight and the Timaco Hill on its side.
Traversing through the knife-edge of Mt. Minandar, we were near the summit and a flock of eagles was dancing through the sunset sky. It appears that we’re not the only ones celebrating the glorious show. Legend has it that a gigantic eagle once soar the sky of Mt. Minandar and nested on the mountain as per our guide said. Locals trembled in fear when the said eagle navigates through the sky hid in their respective homes until the humongous winged-creature will free the sky. We were so amazed by the flying beasts that we didn’t mind the course of the trail. The sight of the deep ravines and steep trail behind us are unbelievable. Deep canyons and gorges on the right side and deeper of it on the other side. We couldn’t believe that we managed to traipse our feet on that narrow trail and death cliffs on both sides.
When we set foot at the summit, the magical show of the sun was nearing its end as it slowly surrendering all its glory to the liquid horizon. The pink sky turns to grey bidding farewell to the day. The warmth caressing our skin fading gradually and the cold breeze blows subtly. The evening winds started to whisper in our ears while the crickets harmoniously sang their first masterpiece for the night. We slowly paced down the mountain before it gets pitch black.
The climb was all worth it leaving a big smile in our hearts. The magical sunset made it all as if the universe was lucidly telling me it was all prepared for us to see. Though we only had less than an hour to marvel the glory of Mt. Minandar, it took only that nick of time to win our hearts and left an imprint of a lifetime.
HOW TO GET TO MT. MINANDAR:
Located in Brgy. Kusiong, Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS), Maguindanao, Mt. Minandar is the municipality’s newest hiking attraction for outdoor enthusiasts. There are several direct flights to the province flying from Cebu, Manila, and Zamboanga City.
- Via Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS), Maguindanao: From Awang Airport, take a tricycle or payong-payong to Mt. Minandar jumpoff area. The drivers know and will take you there. You can also hire a habal-habal from the airport to Mt. Minandar jumpoff area. The fare is negotiable. Travel time is 30 minutes.
- Via land travel: From General Santos City or any neighboring provinces, take a bus or a van (P300.00-P350.00) bound for Cotabato City. Travel time is 3-4 hours. Unboard at the crossing for SPDA village or Kanto Broce. Ride either habal-habal or payong-payong (P150.00) to Mt. Minandar jumpoff area. Travel time is 30 minutes.
Here’s a sample itinerary on our Mt. Minandar climb. We actually had few hours to complete the trek because we started late in the afternoon. But you could opt to spend a whole day starting early in the morning.
- 02:15 PM: Arrived at Awang Airport. Late lunch.
- 03:50 PM: Arrived at Mt. Minandar jumpoff area.
- 04:30 PM: Prepped. Started the trek.
- 05:30 PM: Summit and Photo Ops.
- 05:50 PM: Start descent.
- 06:20 PM: Back in the jumpoff area.
- 06:30 PM: ETD to Cotabato City
Their tourism allows overnight camping with its corresponding fees. For more inquiries, please reach out thru their Facebook Page: https://facebook.com/mtminandarkusiongdos/
- P77.00 — Lunch at the airport.
- P420.00 — Habal-habal and guide expenses*
- P50.00 — Drinks
- P25.00 — Environmental fee
*Our habal-habal drivers serve as our tour guide as well. They fetched us from Awang Airport to Mt. Minandar jumpoff area and back to Awang Airport.
- Please practice LNT principles. LNT signs are scattered along the trail. So please read and comprehend. The mountain is also the home to Maguindanao’s ethnic Tedurays who considers Mt. Minandar their home and sacred place. I encourage you to be responsible travelers.
- Protect yourself. Wear arm sleeves if you don’t want to fry your skin. An open trail leads to the summit of Mt. Minandar. It is also advisable to wear arm sleeves because the bladed leaves of cogon grasses might cut your skin and/or irritate your skin.
- Pack light. Bring only basic items. Bring at least one (1) liter of water, energy bars and/or first aid kit if necessary. There’s a small sari-sari store in the jumpoff area and in the nearby community.
- ENJOY YOUR CLIMB! Pull off a memorable experience.