Mount Manaphag
Pan de Azucar Is., Iloilo, Philippines
              The Island-Peak
       Mount Manaphag is situated in Pan de Azucar (also the other name for the peak), an island which could be reached by a pumpboat in 45 minutes from Concepcion town in Iloilo province. With white-sand beaches, spectacular crags and verdant hills, Pan de Azucar Is. belongs to a string of small scenic islands dotting the northeastern coast of Iloilo.
         With an estimated elevation of 2,900 ft. ASL, Mt. Manaphag is a relatively low peak. However, it possesses two remarkable features - its spectacular crags and very steep incline. Perhaps the steepest peak in the country, Mt. Manaphag flaunts of slopes ranging from 60 to 90 degrees.
Features:
* The Island Peak
* Mountaineering in Manaphag
* First Ascent on the South Face
Mt. Manaphag is called by the inhabitants in the outlying islands as Taas-Bukid or tall mountain. Indeed, it is the tallest peak in the surrounding islands dotting the northeastern coast of Iloilo.
        According to legend, a giant named Toya  used to inhabit the summit of Manaphag. Toya takes a bath in a lagoon on the summit, using for a scoop the shell of a gigantic manlot or clam. As modern man seeks ways to to distinguish the facts and fictions in a myth, testimonies abound, either negating or upholding, some elements in the Manphag legend. Based on the observations of many climbers who had reached the summit, the peak of Manaphag is very narrow to be able to sustain a lagoon of a size. However, some sources adamantly maintain the belief for the existence of the lagoon, found in a sizable tract of flat ground slightly below the summit in the northwestern side. As to the presence of a giant manlot, one version has it that the manlot is merely a rock with the rough semblance of the real thing. A contrasting view holds it however to be a real oyster; allegedly, it was taken out for its pearl aboard a helicopter a couple of decades ago.
          Another thorny issue about Manaphag is the standing claim that it is an extinct volcano. A steep cone resembling the hard core of a long eroded volcano, it naturally perpetuates the notion of the common folks who consider it as a
kulob nga bulkan or inverted volcano - whatever that means. At any rate, the dominant rock of Manaphag is dalepe or sedimentary rock - not igneous or volcanic. Whatever is true, only the experts could tell with authority.
                                          Mountaineering in Mt. Manaphag
Mountaineers' Peak
              When the MFPI Annual Congress and Climb for 2000 was held in Guimaras Is, Mt. Manaphag was chosen for one of the side-trips of some of its delegates. Perhaps, this is the first instance that Manaphag was introduced to mountaineers across the country. At any rate, Mt. Manaphag has long been a siginificant peak for mountaineers based in Negros and Panay islands. Etched on trees on the summit of Manaphag are initials lie AMS (for Antique Mountaineering Society) and USAMS (for Univ. of San Agustin Mountaineering Society). Although it is not advertised on the summit, the Iloilo Mountaineering Club must have included Manaphag in its itineraries. For its part, a Negros climbing party (likely of the Negros Mountaineering Club) visited Manaphag sometime in December 2000. The later bivouacked on a crag in the South Face and did some rappeling.
(Recently, the IMC makes a categorical claim that it has been climbing Manaphag in all routes since the 1980's. * October. 14, 2001 Update)
The Ponting Trail
            So far, the only extant trail to the summit of Manaphag is the Ponting Trail. This trail commences from the beach of Barrio Ponting east of the island, ascends westward on a gentle slope strewn with rubble in the open sun and climaxes in the 65- to 80-degree angle of the North Ridge and the northern summit-wall. Excluding the time devoted to approach and to leave the island, at least 2 to 3 days are needed to complete this very strenuous climb. Significantly, all known climbs of mountaineers utilize the Ponting Trail that provides two major obstacles. These are: a.) the taxing heat of the sun along the rock-strewn first phase, and, b.) the steep angle of the second phase.
View from a rock-ledge on the South Face taken during the First South Face Ascent by the Victorias Climbing Party in April 12-15, 2000.
Benefits
             Alleviating the difficulty of the climb in the Ponting Trail, a water-source and a campsite are present at the base of the North Ridge. For inspiring views, a lot of vantage points offers vistas of spectacular crags in Pan de Azucar as well as sights of surrounding islands. With luck, one could espy a
mana-ul, an endemic eagle slighly smaller than the Philippine Eagle. Disturbingly, the forest of Manaphag while still dense has already lost much of its mul-awon (or molave) and other hardwoods. Of course, the best resource Manaphag could offer is the hospitality of its islanders scattered in settlements such as Tambaliza, Ponting, Looc and Makatunaw.
Untapped Routes
             For its distinction as possibly the steepest peak in the country, Manaphag offers a venue for big-wall climbing. In Particular, its South Face and East Face are so inviting to the intrepid rock-climber. Dramatically, the Victorias Climbing Party effected the possible  First Ascent (by mountaineers) of the South Face from April 12-15, 2001.
Full Story of the First South Face Ascent (Click Here)
Singarong Backpackers
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The Alternative Climb
        
When the PHIVOLCS came out on March 23, 2001 with an advisory calling off all climbs in Mount Kanlaon Natural Park, the climbing party organized by the Singarong Backpackers (SB) wasted no time to look for an alternative for a Kanlaon Climb scheduled for April 13-15, 2001. Several Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros sites were considered before Mount Manaphag was chosen just a week before the schedule.

The Victorias Climbing Party
          
Four members of SB and two guest-mountaineers from Kaabyanan sa Dabok Mountaineers (KSDM) comprise the Victorias Climbing Party (VCP). Both clubs are based in Victorias City, Negros Occidental.
           These are the members of the party:
              1.) Dennis Ella - male, SB, Climb Leader
              2.) Ernina Defino - female, SB, Travel and Accomodation
              3.) Pedro Palabrica - male, SB, Climber
              4.) Mariebelle Porras - female, SB, Climber
              5.) Socorro Belgira - female, 54 years old, KSDM, Mountaineer
              6.) Edna Marcasote - female, 95 kgs., KSDM, Mountaineer
The Record Climb
         
In four days, the VCP set a mountaineering record in Mount Manaphag. While all previous mountaineering  climbs in Manaphag utilized the established trail in the northern side (the IMC claims to have climbed Manaphag in all routes since the 1980's), the VCP hiring an able guide (Dagul Atanoso) and a porter (Rolly Valderrama) chose the South Face which remains without a trail and 'unclimbed', at least for mountaineers. Sheer and rocky, the South Face is a forbidding presence in the barangay of Tambaliza.
          The VCP ascent of the South Face on April 13, 2001 consumed much of the day for the climbers. Accurately, six hours excluding the 2-hour respite by mid-day were spent for the climb that consists mainly of scrambling and, on a rock-section, a climb aided by a line and the prusik knot as an ascending device. For hazards, the climbers were in frequent threat from cascading rocks and the exposed sections where protection was sacrificed to refrain from doing the time-consuming fixing of lines.
          A mountaineering feat, the VCP climb is probably the First Ascent of the South Face of Mt. Manaphag by mountaineers. Moreover, the VCP may have probably set the first bivouac on the summit and the First South-North Face Traverse as the party executed the descent on the Ponting Trail.
(UPDATE/August 13, 2003: The CPU Mountaineers claims the first summit bivouac in 1987.)
(L-R) M. Porras (seated), E, Defino (seated), P. Palabrica, E. Marcasote, S. Belgira, R. Valderrama and D. Atanoso - climbing party on a rock-ledge in the South Face.
Triumphant climbers unfurling the SB banner on the summit of Mt. Manaphag
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