We have often looked across the tropical blue waters of the Strait of Tañon to the volcanic mountains of the island of Negros. At nearly 8000 feet, the tallest mountain is impressive, but often capped by clouds.
Kanlaon, part of the Negros Volcanic Belt, is a large stratovolcano dotted with numerous flank cones and craters, many of which contain lakes. The volcano has three hot springs on its slopes. Its adjacent volcanic edifices are Mt. Silay and Mt. Mandalagan, north of Canlaon.
The nearly 2,500 m (8,000 ft.) summit of Kanlaon contains a 2-km-wide (1.3 miles), elongated caldera with two craters. One is inactive and contains a crater lake. The second crater to the south is smaller, higher and contains the historically active vent, Lugud crater. Lugud crater is 250 m (820 ft.) wide and 150-200 m (500-700 ft.) deep. The base of Kanlaon measures an area of 30 km (19 mi) x 14 km (9 mi).
The volcanic activity in Negros is harvested into electricity through two geothermal power plants in the island
Negros was originally called Buglas, an old Hiligaynon word thought to mean “cut off”, as it is believed that the island was separated from a larger landmass by rising waters during the last ice age. Among its earliest inhabitants were the dark-skinned Ati people, one of several aboriginal Negrito ethnic groups dispersed throughout Asia that possess a unique culture. Upon arriving on the island in April 1565, the Spanish colonizers called the land Negros, meaning “black”.
Old folks of Canlaon tell of a pair of ill-starred lovers, Princess Laon and Kang who were forced to elope to keep their warring chieftain fathers from breaking them apart. Unfortunately, the lovers were captured and doomed to die amidst the harsh conditions of the wilderness.
From their deathbed rose Malaspina, a fabled volcano intermittently spewing lava. The lovers’ names were later combined to form the name Kanlaon.
We have never been so close to a volcano before, so we thought it would be great to climb Kanlaon.
Elder Hall, I need to go to a meeting in San Carlos on Tuesday. Do you want to go?
Sure! What time should we leave?
Let’s take the 7:30 am ferry. We will need to be in the office by 5:30 am.
We were fifth in line, but we did not get on the 7:30 ferry. They gave us the last vehicle ticket for the 10 am ferry.
We were back in line at 9 am. When our pickup was finally safely stowed in the belly of the ferry, we went to the deck to watch the city of Toledo fade into the distance. After an hour and a half ride, we debarked at San Carlos on the shores of Negros.
Let’s go check out the volcano first.
We drove past rich volcanic soil where field after field of sugar cane flourished at all stages of development. We met huge trucks piled high with harvested cane. We turned off the coastal highway and began the winding climb into the mountains. Cane was planted on the steep mountain sides. In the higher areas emerald green rice terraces glowed in the sunshine..
We stopped to take pictures and met a friendly family who guided us to see the huge “Century Tree,” one of the Philippines’ huge balete (banyan) trees.
Balete trees (also known as balite or baliti) are several species of the trees in the Philippines from the genus Ficus that are broadly referred to as balete in the local language. A number of these are known as strangler figs wherein they start upon other trees, later entrapping them entirely and finally killing the host tree. Also called hemiepiphytes, initially, they start as epiphytes or air plants and grow several hanging roots that eventually touch the ground and from then on, encircling and suffocating the host tree. Some of the baletes produce an inferior quality of rubber.
In some areas of the country, some people believe that balete trees are dwelling places for supernatural beings like kapre or tikbalang. In some places, sorcery rituals are known to be performed inside the chambers formed by the tree
The balete tree inside the OISCA Farm in Lumapao, Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, Philippines is estimated by botanists from Silliman University to be around 1,328 years old. It would take at least 42 men to encircle its trunk. At the heart of this wide tree trunk is a cavity where lizards, bats and many insects have made it their home. With fireflies lighting it at night like a year-round Christmas tree, it is one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
We stopped at an organic farm or hacienda (pronounced hah shen’ jah) and visited the ostriches, then continued to Canlaon City at the base of the volcano. The closer we got, the higher the volcano looked. Along our way, we inquired about the volcano.
How long does it take to climb to the summit of the crater?
Maybe three hours.
For an old man?
Umm…. Maybe not. But there is a guide who will take you in three days.
Three days? In 90+ degree heat with humidity making the real-feel solidly in the triple digits? For a 70 year old man?
Umm… Maybe not. It is too cold at the top.
As we climbed into the pickup, Elder Hall shook his head.
I think this is out of our league. Experienced climbers consider this a “major climb”, with a difficulty level of 7/9, and trail class 2-4. I don’t know if that is with or without the fog.
Mount Borah sounds easier, if we consider the heat.
But I still want to take a boat all the way around the island of Cebu.