Hiking Mt. Igduao in Valderrama Antique: A Tough Journey Full of Surprises, Sheer, and Serendipity
By: Richard R. Cahilig
“Hold on tight,” Ritchel said as she starts her scooter. “I’m ready, let’s go!” I said with full of excitement. Then she squeezed the gas throttle. We’re going on a road-trip and hike Mt. Igduao in Valderrama, Antique. It’s in the opposite side of Mt. Igcuron which we already hiked separately sometime ago. It’s an approximately five-hour drive from Malay, Aklan. We had several stops on some beautiful spots along the road which ate a lot of our travel time. It was already dusk when we reached Culasi, Antique so we decided to have our dinner in the next town, Tibiao. Knowing that we wouldn’t make it to Valderrama, we decided to stay for a night in Tibiao. We stayed in a college-run hostel. Nobody was around when we arrived so we requested the security guard to call the caretaker. The latter arrived few minutes later and led us to our room. The room was good and the price was very cheap but still, we longed for the comfort of the sand as a night ago, we camped on the beach in Bel-is with our friends. It was a lot of fun.
The next day, we woke up early for Valderrama. We stopped at a restaurant in Laua-an for breakfast and took out some food for the hike. We arrived in Valderrama at around 10:00 AM, registered in the police station and proceeded to Baranggay Binanogan to hire a guide. It didn’t took us long to find one. Shortly after preparing our gears and stuff, we began to ascend.
While on our way up to Mt. Igduao, the weather started to change. We walked speedily as the clouds get heavier and the sky gets darker. Luckily, we were near a hut when the rain poured down but still we got drenched. We rested in the house and had our lunch. The rain was intense. After waiting for almost an hour, the rain turned to drizzle prompting us to continue our hike. Before we left, the hut owner warned us of the danger ahead as there were cases of theft in the area. Missing cows were reported by the farmers. They suspected that some law offenders were hiding in the area and stealing farmers cows. The news shocked us as there was no warning given to us when we logged in at the police station. We were on the verge of abandoning the hike when the hut owner gave us safety tips and suggested a new trail to our guide to avoid the possible encounter with these people. Despite of being worried, soaked, cold, and even got lost on trail, we were able to successfully reach the summit after a few hours. The rain totally stopped when we’re at the peak. It left scattered clouds and moving fog which added impressive effects. It gave way to a breathtaking view of mountain ranges and ridges overlooking Mt. Igcuron and the long and winding stretch of Valderrama river. There, we witnessed how beautiful the mountains are after the rain. It was a heavenly moment where everything was picturesque. For almost an hour, we just stood there enjoying the cool breeze and stunning views before us and took photos once in a while.
It was my second hike to Mt. Igduao. On my first hike, I saw a long ridge that I promised myself to explore when I come back. Fueled with enthusiasm, Ritchel and I went to that spot which is still part of the mountain. It took us less than an hour to explore the ridge because there was no established trail yet. Halfway, we were totally blown away by the surrounding views. It was unexpected. Though we we’re not able to continue due to terrain difficulty, the scenery was very worth to see. We almost didn’t want to walk away.
We left Mt. Igduao at very late afternoon. We hastily walked to avoid a night trek. We staggered on steep rocks and held on to vines during our descent. We were approaching the end of the rice field when flashes of light stopped us. We bumped into five lads. They seem to be looking for something. We were surprised when we learned that they were actually looking for us. “Nag-alala kami kung bakit di pa kayo nakababa kaya nagpasya kami na hanapin kayo,” said by one of the boys. We tittered and apologetically told them that we explored the ridge and enjoyed taking photos without being conscious about the time. It was very dark when we arrived in Barangay Binanogan. When we reached the end of the foot trail, the barangay officials and the mother of our guide approached us. They worriedly asked why we descended late and told us about the reported missing cows and the alleged offenders. Other community members gathered around us and listened to the conversation. After apologizing, Ritchel tried to lessen their worries by cracking some of her old jokes and played around with the kids. She gave them our remaining trail food. She was also approached by one of the residents and told her about the the hygiene kit which Jackie, her friend, left a year ago when they hiked Mt. Igcuron. We left the crowd and went inside the house to get the kit. The woman who Ritchel met a year ago offered us her bathroom for us to wash and change clothes. Shortly after packing up, we said goodbye to the community. I must say, their smiles were contagious.
After less than an hour, we arrived in the town proper and logged out in the police station and left Valderrama. We stopped by in a restaurant in Bugasong, Antique for dinner. Thinking of a long drive home, we moved in haste because Ritchel has work the next day. Unfortunately, we got a flat tire even before we left the town of Bugasong. Stranded and didn’t know where to get it fixed, we walked to the nearby store and asked for the nearest vulcanizing shop. We tried looking everywhere but failed to find one. The store owner offered us a seat outside their store where they were having a drinking session. Later, he talked to his son over the phone who happened to be a policeman and surprisingly, we were picked up by a police patrol and brought to the closest lodge where we stayed for a night. Lying down on the bed that night, I recalled how things happened by pure serendipity.
Ritchel left at around 4:00 in the morning to catch the earliest bus and around 7AM, she informed me via SMS that she’s already in school. I went back to bed with glorious smile and and a grateful heart. I left Bugasong later that day after my tire got fixed.