We wanted something unusual during our family trip to Bacolod City in Negros. So among our many itineraries, we decided to have a one-night stay in Mambukal Resort located at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon in Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental, which is just a good 40-minute minibus ride from Libertad in Bacolod City.
Mambukal resort offers many facilities and activities to travelers like us. One of these is the trek to the "seven falls" which I learned later, was actually "nine falls." The last two towards the peak, I presume, are reserved for seasoned backpackers and mountaineers.
I was also informed that one of the falls is the location of one of the scenes from Experimental Cinema of the Philippines' art film Oro, Plata, Mata which was shot entirely in Negros Occidental. So I was really raring to see that exact location as it was one of the most "controversial" scenes where Mitch Valdez and a theater actor (whose name is unfamiliar), had their uncut sex scene on one big flat rock.
The heavy rain after we checked in dampened our spirits as we were not able to move around and see and photograph the sights and discover every nook and cranny of the mountain resort. Although it was okay to walk in the rain and just swim in one of the cold pools, the lighting and thunderstorms prevented us from doing so, unless we opted to be accidentally electrocuted. We were hopeful, however, for a sunny day the next day so that we can scale up the so-called seven falls. The tour guides informed us that the resort management does not allow trekking during or immediately after a strong downpour to prevent accidents.
The next day, we were greeted by a wee bit of sunshine so I immediately looked for Lito, the tour guide whom we negotiated with upon our arrival and signaled we were on the go. We had early and quick breakfast so we could take advantage of the sunny weather before it rains again. We started our ascent at around 7:30 (which is already a bit late), and had to drop by in a shed at the foot of the trail where we listed our names on the log book before proceeding (again for security reasons).
At the start, the climb and the trail were winding and easy. The sun seeping through the canopies even made photography exciting as it provided that extra drama to the scenery. It did not take us long before we could reach the first waterfall. It has a big pool but, unfortunately, was off limits to swimming due to falling rocks. So we just entertained ourselves by just taking photos of the place. Besides, it was too early to plunge. And as I recall the movie Oro, Plata, Mata, I think this was the the exact location, and I was able to identify that big flat rock! (Smile!)
Going up to see the 2nd and 3rd falls was becoming more difficult, at least for the kids and my wife who had no mountaineering experience. We had to climb steep rock walls. Save for the man-made concrete steps and handrails that made climbing much easier. I think, I am a better climber this time compared to my Sagada and Timbak, Kabayan trips. Thanks to exercise, no more panting and catching deep breaths!
I would have wanted to go near the falls but then we were limited by steep cliffs, which only the experienced rock climbers could negotiate. We had to make do with seeing and photographing the falls from a view deck the resort has put up for hikers.
After the 3rd waterfall, we had to climb up a 70 to 80-degree wall (again through a winding concrete steps with handrails). But it was a bit difficult for me with a camera bag in tow. It would have been easier with a backpack camera bag. Nonetheless, we were able to make it to see falls 5 and 6.
Where is waterfall number 4? It was unfortunate that we were not able to see it because it was destroyed during a typhoon and it eroded (That is according to our tour guide. I took his word for that. Locals know best.). So we walked a bit far, this time on a cliff side, until we finally reached falls 5 and 6.
Waterfall No. 5 was hidden. One can see it from above, and we have to make do with seeing it from there. It has a pool as deep as 20 feet, according to Lito. Waterfall No. 6 was actually a series of small rapids, where the trail usually ends. There were resting huts and one local entrepreneur was selling drinks and other food items. One can actually bathe in this place. Again, I took some photos, while my family took some rest.
And the 7th waterfall? We decided early on that we will not go to the place as it would take another 30-minute walk (by their standards), which could translate into one hour for us, inexperienced trekkers and with a kid in tow.
When it was time to go, our guide suggested we take the other way, which is a much easier though longer trail. It was the "back door" and had less rocks to climb and safer for the descent, though a bit slippery because of the rain the previous day. Besides, according to the tour guide, it offers a different view. Again I took his words for it. Indeed it was a different picture out and up there on the other side. It gave us the view of Murcia and Bacolod City from the top, go a bit near the nesting place of the flying foxes, and the community where he and some of the guides live.
Not even halfway through the slippery trail, it rained again. I am relieved that I brought my wet bag which can accommodate my sling camera bag, so I did not worry about my gears getting wet. We passed through mountain rice fields and communities, until we reached the center of Brgy. Minoyan that led to one of the roads that leads to Mambukal Resort. We arrived at around 10:00AM, which gave us enough time to dip into the waiting hot wading pool to relax our tired and aching feet, clean up, fix our things, have lunch and check out at exactly 12 noon (they are very strict on that, since there are many people waiting to be checked in too).
Although we were not able to see the 4th and 7th falls, or bathe in one of the pools, it was worth it, especially for my two boys who had their first time to scale up a mountain on foot, and experience what nature can offer.
One good thing about this trek is the meekness humility, kindness and honesty of Lito, our guide, who helped us throughout the trek. So I asked my wife to give him tip for his extra kindness.
One thing though, the tour guides must be better organized so that they have a fixed rate, just like what they do in Sagada, so that both guides and trekkers would not take advantage of each other. At this point, guides just accept any amount the trekkers give—be it P200 or P300 or more depending on the generosity of the guest.
After the trek, we realized we need at least 2 days to enjoy everything the resort could offer. Be that as it may, it was well-spent time seeing and photographing the falls of Mount Kanlaon.
For the Photos of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th falls of Mt. Kanlaon, view this slide show:
For the trek photos:
or visit my FLICKR SETS-- SEVEN FALLS and THE TREK TO MOUNT KANLAON if you have slow connection or do not have flash player.