Traversing Aklan and Antique: A Three-day Hike to Mt. Madjaas via Panipiason, Madalag; Uncovering Aklan and Antique’s Hidden Treasures
By: Richard R. Cahilig
It was 8AM in Sitio Mananggad, Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan when we started preparing our loads for our hike to Mt. Madjaas in Antique on the same day. It is the highlight of our seven-day exploration so far and the toughest. We've traveled from Libacao, crossed the border to Madalag, and hiked the highest mountain in Aklan for the past two days. Spending a night with the people of Panipiason was a heartwarming experience for us. Their warmth and humility deeply touched us. As we were preparing to set-out, one of our guides anxiously told us that he's not sure if we can cross the rivers today because of the downpour last night. The rivers are unpredictable when it rains. He asked us to think again whether to proceed or not. Persistent with our journey, we decided to continue.
My childhood was filled with outdoors and adventures. I grew up in the highlands and as a kid, the mountains served as my playground. Hiking Mt. Madjaas was a dream to me back then. Going to school, I would always look up to it and wish that I can climb it someday. It was last year when Ritch and I, on separate events hiked this majestic mountain from the Antique side (Flores trail). This time, we are hiking it together from the Aklan side (Panipiason-Osorio trail).
We walked for three days across swaying monkey bridge over Dumalaylay River, waist-deep river crossings, huge boulders, waterfalls, narrow ridges, and cliffs accentuated by scenic landscapes along the way. The trail was very challenging and very exhausting, mostly 80 to 85 degrees ascend, thick forest, dense moss, heavily-thorned plants and trees, and aggressive leeches.
We've gone through all hardships and extremities during the hike but seeing the wonderful treasures hidden in this part of Aklan and summiting the highest point in Panay was all worth it. Though I've been to numerous destinations, both local and international, it's fascinating to know that there are so many paradise-like places in my home province, Aklan. All it takes is a strong will and courage fuelled by passion and a sense of purpose to discover and explore them. It was an amazing journey and for us, it was the best hike of our lives.