SIXTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD Ananias “Aning” Apostol spends his days sitting under the shade of a tree outside his house, which was built on a mountain in Sitio Lugsangan, Tabon, Dalaguete in southern Cebu.
He hears the sound of the roosters crowing, the leaves of the trees rustling as the fresh breeze dances through them, and the occasional vehicle passing by—be it a motorcycle dropping his neighbors off or a truck of freshly-harvested vegetables making its way to the market in the town below.
Sometimes, and this had only started happening this year, his peaceful days would be made more eventful when he would meet travelers.
“Excuse me, sir, is this on the way up to Lugsangan Peak?” they would ask him. He noticed that it had started in the summer of 2017, when travelers, usually youngsters seeking adventure, headed there to trek up to the peak from the pathway next to his house. They wanted to see the view that people have now named “the Chocolate Hills of Southern Cebu.”
Apostol then decided to be a free volunteer and have people sign a logbook every time they went up the peak, so as to monitor how many had visited one of Southern Cebu’s hidden treasures.
The area of Lugsangan (also called Casino) Peak, Apostol told us, was actually known by local residents as “Sino”, the family name of the residents who used to live there. When people would ask, locals would say, “Mao na ka Sino. (That belongs to Sino.)”
Eventually, someone came up with “Casino Peak” and made a page on Facebook. Apostol also said that one of the youngsters donated a sign that said “Casino Peak, the Chocolate Hills of Southern Cebu” that they put outside of their house, at the foot of the peak.
A breath-taking (literally!) 20- to 35-minute hike, from the foot of the peak to the top of it, graces adventurers with a view of vegetable gardens, rock formations, and the mountain. This ultimately rewards you with a view of more than 100 hills stretching past what your eyes can see.
From the top of Lugsangan Peak, viewers can see Alegria on the north, Mt. Canlaon of Negros Oriental and Badian Island on the south, Osmeña Peak on the east, and Barangay Tabon on the west. The peak has also been used for a pre-nuptial shoot and as a small camp site. Tourists usually bring food and drinks with them for refreshments as they take in their surreal view after their slightly strenuous (to the unprofessional trekkers) hike.
Guides are also available, and preferred, to help visitors make their way up and down the peak, which has remained untouched and not yet fully developed.
“Foreign tourists and trekkers want it that way,” said Apostol, who mentioned that there had been a few objections from them when someone brought up the idea of cementing the pathway.
Apostol noticed there are usually more people on Sundays. “They arrive from the city right before the sunlight breaks. Then some of them even take a long hike to Kawasan Falls from here.”
We had taken an SUV to Lugsangan. When we asked for directions, motorists at the town tried to discourage us from venturing forth, saying that cars could not climb up and that the roads were slippery from the rain, but we pushed on anyway when we heard that there was a small road on the way there.
“Take a left from the main highway,” was what we were told by one of the local residents at the foot of the mountain on our way to Lugsangan. Later, it was discovered that another left had to be taken after the rock formations riddled with red moss were passed.
“They just paved a one-way road for cars,” said Apostol, who mentioned that even trucks of vegetables were able to pass because that was the main source of livelihood for the people in their area. Dalaguete is also known as the “vegetable basket of Cebu.”
“It is about three to four kilometers from Mantalungon market to Lugsangan Peak,” said one of the guides, Roberto Castillano, 31. “From the national highway (Poblacion) to Lugsangan, the price for non-locals is P150 while it is P80 for locals.”
Lugsangan Peak, 1,040 meters above sea level (based on the GPS of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), currently has no entrance fee for the place nor a fee for the guide.
Volunteer Aning Apostol advises interested travelers to “always sign in the logbook for monitoring and be careful on your way up. Also, please don’t step on the vegetables.”
What to bring to Lugsangan Peak: