“Ugh, when is this going to end?” I muttered in frustration.
It was already the fifth time we had to disembark the bus for another checkpoint. This is something I already expected to happen but it still made me frustrated. One thing you need to know if you are planning on traveling around Mindanao is that there are checkpoints everywhere.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am totally fine with it. It’s for the safety of everyone else, after all. But when you’re a tiny woman carrying a large backpack, a laptop bag, and another excess bag with you and have been traveling for 6 hours now, checkpoints can really wear you out. You have to put down all your belongings properly, disembark the bus, go on a line, show your ID to a military officer, have your small bags and pockets checked, and wait until the bus is also thoroughly checked. Mind you, you have to do this every time you are entering or exiting a town. Sometimes, there are two checkpoints in every town.
South Cotabato to Bukidnon
It was my 29th day in Mindanao. I stayed in South Cotabato for 21 days and then stayed in Davao del Sur for about a week. I was starting to feel sore in my muscles from all the activities I did. Bukidnon was my next destination as my best friend suggested we would climb Panimahawa Ridge.
After almost what seemed like forever on the road, we arrived in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. It was a relief that we got a nice hotel for a cheap price!
The Long Road to Panimahawa Ridge
Malaybalay is a highly urbanized city in Bukidnon but at dawn, it looks like a deserted city in an apocalypse movie. The concrete roads and alleys looked eerily empty. The hotel we were staying at was situated inside a quiet residential area. So at 2 AM, we had to walk in the dark to reach the highway. It took us some time to hail a tricycle that could bring us to the terminal.
Upon arriving at the bus terminal, we boarded a bus to Impasugong. To our utter disgust, there were drunks and one even puked inside. Que horror! They had to drag the person out so they clean up the mess inside the bus.
I barely had any sleep the night before. I had to finish some work until midnight so I was really heavy-eyed the moment we rode the bus. We just told the bus conductor to inform us if we are already near Impasugong. What a terrible decision!
He forgot about it because he also fell asleep. My friend and I were also sleeping like a log and only woke up when we were almost an hour away from our supposed bus stop!
The Long Wait
We were absolutely furious, but we couldn’t take it out to the bus conductor because it’s our responsibility to stay attentive to where we’re going. We also had GPS so there was no way we can blame this to him.
Now, we were dropped off at a bus stop which was literally kilometers away from our supposed bus stop going to Panimahawa Ridge. There was no way we can walk this shit out. Moreover, it was extremely dark. The vendors sitting outside the bus stop strongly advised us to just wait for another bus heading back to Malaybalay City.
At this point, we felt hopeless. We were waiting for almost an hour and we were running out of time. We had to arrive at the jump-off point before 5 AM so there’s ample time to trek towards the ridge and witness the sunrise.
After almost an hour of waiting in that dark bus stop, a lone bus arrived and I couldn’t have been more excited. I felt hopeful again that we can still catch the sunrise view in Panimahawa Ridge.
This time, we forced our heavy eyes to stay open and I kept on looking at the GPS. After almost an hour of waiting, we finally arrived at our stop and waited for the habal-habal driver who will come fetch us.
Everything your mother warned you about…
I am not easily scared off by something but at that point, I was really straight up scared by our situation. Here we were; two petite girls walking all by themselves in the dark with no idea where they’re heading. All of a sudden, a habal-habal driver came out of nowhere telling us he’s bringing us to the jump-off point of Panimahawa Ridge.
This exactly one of those things your mother warn you about. The road going to this so-called Ant Farm is exactly like those in crime movies where little girls get dumped. News of NPA sightings in these areas didn’t help either.
Calm your tits, Bean. Nothing’s going to happen to you.
But am I really that blessed to be spared from these things? Nevertheless, I prayed for our safety. Because what else can I do?
Thankfully, we arrived safely at the Ant Farm – a camping ground in Impasugong. This is where you pay for the fees and get a guide.
Panimahawa Ridge, At Last!
It was almost the crack of dawn so you can imagine how fast we had to hike towards the ridge. At just 819 meters above sea level, climbing Panimahawa Ridge is relatively easy. The trail is pretty slippery though so you need to be very careful especially that you need to start hiking while it is still dark.
I was running for the hills when I finally saw the ridges. We were just in time to witness the beautiful sunrise.
As the blue-grey skies started to dissipate, the sun’s rays revealed the most beautiful view of the lush mountain ridges. You will be rewarded with a 360-view of the Kitanglad mountain range. In fact, Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Dulang-Dulang – two of the highest mountains in the Philippines – can be seen in the distance.
The long road to Panimahawa Ridge was all worth it.
There are only a few of us who understands the beauty and rarity of the view on top of the mountains. And only we who dare make it up there can understand it.
This is why we climb. This is why we continue going to places our mother warned us about.