Let’s take advantage of the dry season. This is the best time to consider exploring the mountain range of Negros. When the rainy days come, it would be difficult or impossible to climb our mountains when slopes are slippery and traction is unstable. For an easy climb, may I suggest a day’s trek to Mt. Patag’s Pulang Tubig? And I suggest always getting a mountain guide to take you there. In my case, Ramke with his cool dreadlocks offered to accompany my group into the hinterlands of Brgy. Patag.
Patag in Silay City is part of the few remaining forest stands in Negros Island. According to the Silay City Tourism Office, 1,338 hectares of lush forest lands comprise the North Negros Forest Reserve which makes up part of the 4.77 percent remaining forest cover. It is lush with giant ferns and vegetation, wild flowers and berries , indigenous tree species and vines. And the waterfalls, many gushing rivers and streams make this piece of natural paradise perfect for healing stressed souls and overcrowded minds. The Pulang Tubig waterfall was my destination. And this is where I sought to clear my mind and recover from the onslaught of city life.
Patag served as the last stronghold of the Japanese Imperial Army in the island during World War II. It is said that the name PulangTubig has its origins in the story that, according to the old folks, “the blood of Japanese soldiers killed during the war oozed down from the peak of Pulang Tubig”. Another theory is that the slightly red color in the river stones are caused by sulfuric reaction. I believe in the former because what I saw were clear, pristine waters clean enough to drink. Ramke refilled my water bottle from water dripping from a boulder overhead. There is a slight mossy, mineral taste to it. It is said that of the sixteen springs discovered, two are thermal, three are acidic or vinegary, and three have curative effects on the skin.
To get to the falls, a good hour’s trek is possible. But not in our case. It took us an hour and a quarter at least to amble down the trail, climb rocks, and hurdle over vegetation. A friend was mildly shocked to find out it took us that long (“I can trek it in forty minutes.”) and his shock turned to understanding when I told him that a lot of times, we stopped to take pictures. Patag is very picturesque and photogenic, too. A double-leafed magenta lily here, and a scarlet wild berry there, not to mention the mesmerizing flow of water on the rocks in the streams that we crossed, can easily fill up a photo album. Yet, no camera can capture the exhilarating burst of energy from the cataract, nor the coldness of the mist that enveloped us when we were finally at the pool of water of the bottom of Pulang Tubig the waterfall.
The waterfall itself is majestic from the craggy face that it nests in, to the roar of the water coming from above. Even in midday, its water is cool and inviting. Experienced trekkers say that to reenergize from the trek, a dip in the pool is a must. This supposedly melts away any fatigue that you’ll feel. And you will certainly need this tip in case you visit the other frequently-visited sites such as the Malisbog and Dumalabdab Waterfalls, the Sulfatara (hot sulfuric water) that is an 8-hour walk from the barangay proper, or Sulfatara Gamay, that is a mere five hours away. For that trek to Sulfatara, your reward would be the natural rock formation Pandong Bato just a few meters away. The list of must-see sights includes Kawa Kawa, a hidden natural pool, and Tinagong Dagat, the crater of a once active volcano that erupted in the 18th century. The latter always elicits exclamations of excitement from seasoned climbers who rave about the carpet-like spread of moss on the crater floor during the dry season.
As precious as the mountain waters and the forests are the endangered wildlife such as the Philippine Spotted Deer, the Visayan Warty Pig, and native birds including the Bleeding Heart Pigeon. Patag was the site of a logging concession in the 1950’s that continued until the 90’s. The forest is lush now but just imagine how it must have been in its old growth period before the harvest of timber from the area. Keeping our forests almost untouched and undisturbed is difficult but not impossible if we only respect it and love it. Unchecked human traffic and noise can adversely affect nature.
Mountains have healing power and so do trees (hug one today; never mind what the neighbors will think). We take care of them, they take care of us.