Each mountain has their own signature embedded with interesting and memorable stories. Some mountains have similar terrains and trail types but you’ll never have the same experience. It is not a secret that I have climbed quite a number of mountains now, from Luzon down to the Visayas, but never in Mindanao yet. Not until last December when I got to step on the land of Maguindanao. Mt. Minandar was actually the first mountain in Mindanao that I climbed. The mountain was quite new to my hearing if not for the suggestion of my friend during our planning stage for our SOCCSKSARGEN trip.
The province of Maguindanao does not run out of new attractions. Every now and then, a new one is discovered and Mt. Minandar just added one to the count. Just publicly opened to the public in the middle of the year 2016, the trail to the peak of the Mt. Minandar passes through a sparse forest and lush green picturesque slopes. Rising around 1,464 feet or 450 meters above sea level, the peak can be reached in just a few hours of hike. Ideal for recreational activities or simply for quick getaways from the busy streets of the city.
Mt. Minandar is located in Brgy. Kusiong, Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS) of the Maguindanao province. The jump-off and registration site are just along the main Freedom Road and can be reached within 45 minutes from the Cotabato City. Days prior, we already contacted the locals for the arranged trip to Mt, Minandar. Straight from Awang airport of Cotabato City, our contacted guides took us with their habal-habal motorcycles to the jump-off and registration area of Mt. Minandar.
Different mountain but a familiar feeling
It was already late in the afternoon when we started trekking towards the summit of Mt. Minandar. We were pacing fast hoping to get a glimpse of the sunset at the top of the mountain. Stride every stride, we passed through the village houses, witnessing the simple life of the locals.
Aiming to arrive at the peak in less than an hour and before the sun leaks out its last ray of daylight, we coursed through the steep trail panting our way as the drops of our sweat nourished the ground. Leaving the sparse forest, we faced the open trail where the green grass flourish, accentuating every ridge and gorge of the mountain.
As I took my first step, it felt like being transported to another dimension. The afternoon wind cooling my cheeks and the whispers of every grass blade pierced through my senses. Emotions tingle from every bit of my skin down to my deepest core. I was invaded with a familiar feeling. A feeling I can’t quite explain. Something that is familiar but with a loose trace. A faded thread of a golden memory.
As we gained altitude, more and more I was awed by the beauty of Mt. Minandar. I was in trance and I fell in love. It was cloudy and our expected sunset never came to a realization, but it did not matter. The sky dressed up like an art canvas. Painted with the drops of the sun’s glitters and embossed by the protruding hills of the clouds.
From then on, every step felt like a dream. Every angle, a picturesque scene. A dreamy frame on one side and trails of magnificence on the other. The steepness of the mountain was never a concern. Cliffs did not tremble my feet. Slopes failed to falter my spirit as the wind whispered spells I couldn’t decipher. Then it snapped on my head. I was longing for something. A place I wanted to be and belong. Something I can call home. I feel homesick, but a different kind. This maybe what they call “Hiraeth“. Never did I know that I’ve been longing for a different kind of home that has never existed. Until that moment when the sun squeezed all that was left of its golden glow.
Creating golden lines, tracing the ridges of the mountain. My heart melted. I wished I could have stayed longer but darkness started rolling down from the skies. It’s time to bid farewell.
As we hurriedly made our way down, stars slowly popped out glittering the dark skies. Surreal! The view of the flickering stars and the silhouette of the mountains and palm trees left me speechless. I was dumbfounded tilting my head up staring at the skies as the cold wind caressed my skin at the backseat of the motorcycle while racing against time heading back to Cotabato City.
HOW TO GET TO MT. MINANDAR
- Before anything else, make sure to contact a guide prior your visit.
- You may contact them through this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mtminandarkusiongdos/
- They can arrange a motorcycle for you to get you to Mt. Minandar’s registration area.
- They can also fetch you right from the airport.
- We chose this option for convenience.
- They charged us 700 pesos per motorcycle
- Maximum of 2 people per motorcycle
- This already includes guide fee.
- From Cotabato City proper
- Take a jeepney bound for Awang airport and disembark in Kanto Borce/ Freedom Road
- Jeepney fare would be around 15 pesos.
- Takes around 30 minutes.
- From Awang airport
- Walk your way to the main highway and take a jeepney bound for Cotabato City
- Jeepney Fare would be around 8 pesos
- Or you can take a motorcycle or tricycle in the airport heading for Cotabato City
- Disembark in Kanto Borce/Freedom Road
- Takes around 3-5 minutes.
- In Kanto Borce/Freedom Road, take a motorcycle to get you to Mt. Minandar’s registration area.
- Fare would be around 100 – 150 pesos per head
- Takes around 30 minutes before arriving at the registration area
- Registration fee / Environmental fee of 25 pesos per head will be collected
NOTES and REMINDERS
- The peak can be reached in less than an hour for an experienced climber.
- You can leave your bags and other loads at the registration area for easier and faster climb.
- Just bring necessary things like water, trail foods, and of course your cameras for photo souvenirs.
- On the trail, you will pass several local houses.
- Be sociable and polite towards the locals.
- Always wear your best smile and greet them when pass by.
- Tall grasses prevail at the higher portion of the mountain.
- Better wear protective sleeves especially when you have sensitive skin.
- Also, it is an open trail.
- Camping is allowed at the mountain, but be prepared for strong winds.
- Always remember to observe and practice LNT (Leave No Trace) principle.
- Always have your trash bags ready.
- Do not throw or leave your trash anywhere. Bring it with you.
- Picking plants and or flowers as souvenirs is highly not allowed.
- Sadly, plastic trashes already invaded the mountain.
- Maybe these are from the locals of some irresponsible climbers. Don’t be one of them!
- Lastly, enjoy and savor the gift of mother nature
- Enjoy the view and don’t forget your souvenir pictures.