Trips - Leyte Mountain Trail, Province of Leyte

Blazing the Leyte Mountain Trail 

by Bot Villalobos 
edited by Robert Gardner 

  Trekking in the Philippines is a relatively new sport. To encourage its development, the Ministry of Tourism and the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (NMFP) have been surveying backcountry areas through the NMFP's member organizations. 

  Among the sites identified as suitable trekking areas are Mt. Apo near Davao, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, Mt. Madja-as in Antique, Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Occidental, Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Romblon, Mt. Iriga in Camarines Sur, Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon, Mt. Pulog in Benguet, Mt. Banahaw in Quezon, and Mt. Makiling in Laguna. 

  A new addition to this list is the LEYTE MOUNTAIN TRAIL which winds through thickly forested ranges and valleys, criss-crossing one of the province's primary rivers, the Marabong. 

  The establishment of the Leyte Mountain Trail started with speculative surveys made by an Australian tour agency with the help of Philippine Airlines (PAL) Tours and Promotions Office. With the eventual involvement of the Ministry of Natural Resources, University of the Philippines (Tacloban), Leyte Sab-a Basin Development Authority, Province of Leyte, and the Association for Research, Exploration and Air (AREA) the 40-km trail was blazed in May 1982. 

  With about 150 participants, resthuts were built along the trail from Lake Mahagnao northward to Lake Imelda. During 16 days of hard work by both the locals and the Australians, 5 of the 7 planned resthuts were completed according to Steve Koch, consultant to the Ministry of Natural Resources. 

  On August 16, 1982, the NMFP retraced the trail blazed just three months earlier. Representatives from the different mountaineering organizations joined the trek which was sponsored by member agencies of the Leyte Mountain Trail Executive Committee. 

  Individuals who completed the trek include Jerry Celucia, Danny Montaniel, Timmy Toledo, Neri Alfonso, Roni Alfonso, John Fortes, Ben Sevilla and Orly Victuelles (PAL Mountaineering Club); Yol Fernandez, Rey Paviers and John Anglo (San Augustine Mountaineering Club--Bacolod); Edwin Gatia (Philippine Mountaineering Society--Bacolod); J.G. Laurente (Mountain Muscle--Cebu); Nano Into (MACADAC - GEMS - Davao); Peng Peralta (Mayon Mountaineers--Legaspi); Rommel Guttierez (UP Mountaineers--Manila); Nestor Temana (Antique Mountaineering Society); Myra Repulda (Ministry of Tourism--Tacloban); a lady research officer and warden from the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD); and the writer who represented the Philippine Alpinist Association. Mr. Ted Fernandez of the BFD acted as guide. 

  The long hike through the Leyte Mountains is a rewarding experience. Ferns, lilies, aerial plants, tropical shrubs, and birdlife abound throughout the primary forest encompassing the entire trail. The river system is a prominent and interesting feature of the trek. From Mahagnao, the trail goes down to Guinaniban Falls, which flows into the river, and from here frequent river crossings are necessary up to the second resthut. 

  The Lake Mahagnao area has been popular with foreign tourists because of the abundant birdlife. A resthut that can accomodate 35 to 40 campers sits on the shore of the lake just below the barrio of Mahagnao. 

  At the other end of the trail is Lake Imelda National Park which covers an area of 2,047 hectares. The lake itself measures about 144 hectares and is 565 meters above sea level with its deepest point reaching 180-m. A resthut on its eastern shore can accomodate about 40 campers. The park is accessible from the town of Ormoc by taking a jeepney bound for Ga-as, a barrio 4-km beyond the lake, and get off right on the eastern shore. The warden's office is located directly across the lake. 

  The Leyte Mountain Trail is a challenging hike through rugged but beautiful terrain. The journey can be accomplished in eight days but if you don't have the time or inclination, a visit to one of the lakes at either end would be a worthwhile venture. 

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