Trekking the historical mountain named Manunggal

On March 16, 1957, the 3rd President of the Republic of the Philippines—Ramon Magsaysay—arrived in Cebu for speaking engagements at three schools: USC, SWU and UV. Later that evening, he attended a party hosted by Cebu City Mayor Sergio Osmeña, Jr.

By 1 a.m. and in the blackness of the Cebu night, Pres. Magsaysay boarded a Douglas C-47 plane named “Mt. Pinatubo” at the Lahug Airport. An estimated 40 minutes later, as the plane hovered near the mountains of Balamban, the aircraft—carrying our president and 25 others—met a tragic accident on the slopes of Mt. Manunggal.

This Saturday, March 14, 2009—or 52 years to that fateful week—an event in Balamban to commemorate his death—and his life—will be realized. “Paghandum ni Magsasay Annual Adventure Trek ’09,” it’s named, and spearheading the project is Balamban Councilor Dave Karamihan.

“The aim of this event,” wrote Dave in an email, “is to showcase the beauty and the eco-tourism potential of Mt. Manunggal. Before, it was just the hardcore mountaineers who can get to this place and set up camp. Over the years, since an access road has been laid out and comfort room facilities added, more weekend warriors and families have visited.

“Through the events lined up for the commemoration of the death of a beloved president, we may be able to put Manunggal in the map of must-see destinations in Cebu. This could help out both ways: more economic activity in the area, and more consciousness on environmental issues for locals as they would better take care of their resources to keep tourists coming in.

“Nobody knows how this adventure trek started. Some say, it was the mountaineers who liked spending their March 17 weekends atop Mt. Manunggal. Some say it was the USJ-R volunteers who started outreach programs (they even constructed a chapel near the monument)—and continue to do so—several years ago.

“One thing definite is, this all started with a mountain, which happened to embrace a great man in his death. It is ironic that, with Magsaysay’s death, new life is born. A new life for the constituents of Barangay Gaas and Manunggal. That is our goal and our promise.”

The event is a Climbathon and several categories are available: Open (15K), Executive, and Local. “This is the first time for Balamban,” added Councilor Karamihan. “We used to have the Adventure Race for three years. You know, like the Amazing Race, but we couldn’t get much participation from the locals because the race got too technical. This year we decided on the Climbathon. It is simple but still like an adventure race because the Open Division goes through mountain trails. This, we hope the locals would want to attend because they know the terrain and are used to the weather.”

For more details, call Che-Che at 333-2190 or 465-0300.

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!


  1. The Cebu Mountaineering Society was coaxed to life on the slopes of Mt. Manunggal in March 1987. We have been commemorating the Magsaysay Death Anniversary every when few people could physically afford to climb the peak from Tagba-o. Now a road has been constructed exposing it to many ecologically-impaired people leaving mounds of garbage and distorting every blade of grass by their feet. We stopped going there in 1996.

    But, for the last three years, we have been actively pursuing the garbage-collection program a week after every March 17th. Last year, we put up eight steel environmental-awareness signages in strategic areas within and around the camping area. It is our advocacy.

    On the 21st and 22nd, we will climb again and see to it that our dear old Manunggal is free of the other people’s waste and garbage.

  2. I thank you for your post pinoyapache. I am well aware of the downside of the accessibility of Mt. Manunggal. I am also aware of your advocacy.

    Those steel signages are well appreciated by the local government. It was Ramon Vidal, whom I have worked with the past two PNM adventure treks, who informed me of your advocacy.

    I will also be supporting your cleanup on the 21st. I will be there along with our dumptrucks to ferry you back and forth to the mountain, as well as whatever filth we will be collecting.

    While your observation of the seeming degradation of the venue brought about by the access road, it is also equally worth noting that the access road, no matter how narrow and incomplete it may look, has brought about positive changes in the way of life of the locals, both economically and culturally.

    For one thing, we have the new abaca livelihood program which would have been imposssible if there was no access road.

    Also, you may have observed that the mountain has increased its greenery over the years. I was not there in the 1990s when you used to go there but I have been told, and i have observed in the last few years, there have been trees sprouting, if not towering, covering patches of land that used to be bald.

    Thanks to environmentally concious groups like yours that such changes came to be.

    Again, I thank you for your concern and I hope you continue to support the trek year in and year out despite the “ecologically-impaired” people who may go there.

    What is important is we work together in preserving thisw mountain enclave without necessarily alienating other less “informed informal trekkers” who are also entitled to enjoy the place for what it is.

    It’s a challenge to change people’s mindsets and let them see the way you see things but I know you believe me when I say that it is a challenge worth taking.

    Thank you and may your tribe increase.

    Dave Karamihan
    SB member, municipality of balamban

  3. Thank you Dave for your reply. I think I can live with that – the road that gives access to commerce and trade to the inhabitants – and I am most happy with that.

    I think you have that innate sense and grasp of the pulse of your constituents and I believe you. It is enough for me that you know my concerns. At the end of the day I know there is something good coming around the lees and ravines of my dear old mother-mountain.

    God bless you Dave.

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