Pacete: The lure of Tinagong Dagat

IT WAS just like in the movies when the 25 female trekkers were rescued at Cabatangan, Talisay City when they were just starting their trek to Tinagong Dagat. We would like to congratulate the rescue team from Talisay for their immediate action.

Before the trek, the organizer of the Philippine Women’s Mountaineers’ went to my office (Silay Tourism Office) to inform me of the club’s activity. I told her, “If your entry is Patag in Silay, then you have to secure a permit and coordinate with our Silay Outdoor Recreation and Eco-Tourism Area HQ in Barangay Patag. We only allow trekkers to go to Tinagong Dagat if accompanied by our legitimate mountain guides.”

She replied, “No need sir, our entry is Talisay and our exit is also Talisay. We are just informing you.” I did not expect the unexpected. I am so concerned because we are always reminded by what we did during the National Disaster Consciousness Month. Our theme is, “Kahandaan at Pagtugon sa Sakuna, Tungkulin ng Bawat Isa”.

It was Butlak Banaag Mountaineering Society Inc. that requested permission from Silay City Government that the group be allowed to conduct a discussion on Disaster Risk Reduction through Environmental Protection for the people in the community at Barangay Patag. James Utim Benares, BBMS president, could just be right to be ready. Going to Tinagong Dagat is fun and dangerous.

Tinagong Dagat in Mount Mandalagan could be reached from Patag in five hours for those who walk fast; for slow movers, that could be reached after seven hours. When we did the trek with my group (in not so distant past), it was also raining hard. The ascending and descending trails made our back packs heavy. The organized Patag mountain guides were aiding us.

We have to cross streams and conquer obstacles (rocks and giant roots). We were ambushed by “alimatoks” (forest leeches) and our trail was dark because of heavy rain and fog. When we reached the area, “Tinagong Dagat” was really a sea. The water in the basin was 10-feet high. Our group was obliged to sleep in water bed (pile of palm leaves).

We had our canopy on top of the tree and our guides cooked with their pots hanging but fresh almaciga twigs provided us the fire to cook the best “sinigang,” sardines with palm stealth. For me, it was a unique but very dangerous excursion. The 25 female mountaineers from Negros, Cebu, and Manila underestimated the terrain going to Tinagong Dagat.

Our team from Silay have a regular trek to this enchanted place to do “Taklas-Dagnas” (clean-up drive) during dry season. The volunteers clear the trails of garbage caused by pirate trekkers (no permit). In the area (as big as football field), our volunteers picked up garbage (including bottles of alcoholic drinks) to be disposed properly.

I call Tinagong Dagat enchanted because I believe that this hidden basin could be a crater of a sleeping volcano. This could even be a landing area for UFOs. Some trekkers sighted “bulalakaws” here on clear night. Many campers have experienced having a canopy of fireflies over their tents one starry night. I don’t want to excite you, but I have stories to tell based on my research.

Since the time of Mayor Bigot Velez, the Silay Tourism Office is very selective in the issuance of permits for trekkers going to Tinagong Dagat. We do not allow groups to go there if they do not avail the services of the trained mountain guides (for a minimal token). All schedules are coordinated with the office of the barangay captain. After this incident, I hope that Provincial Environment Management Office, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources would come up with clear cut policies concerning trekkers going to Tinagong Dagat.

Trekkers are always excited to go to Tinagong Dagat. Don’t just rush, the mountains have the spirits and Mother Nature has her own ways to allow or not to allow you. Trekkers are always reminded that life is not about having all that you want. It is about appreciating all that you have. To fail means you have tried. To hurt means you have loved and to survive means you have learned.

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