Mount Manghilao: A Fascinating Pilgrimage Site With An Enigmatic Cave
Hiking is, to me, a bit like an endless university. Every time I hit the trail, I get to learn a ton of invaluable lessons in life, forestry and geography from guides, fellow hikers and people I met along the way. And, for someone who has an innate desire to learn, hiking has been such a wondrous blessing, appeasing my inner curiosity and quenching my thirst for knowledge. Even when I hike in off-beat places like Mount Manghilao, I learn tons of things that simply can’t be taught by a typical four-walled classroom.
And last Saturday, hiking did once again please my cravings for learning and adventure. Although the history lessons I learned weren’t exactly life-changing, I at least had fun delving into the intriguing and extraordinary history of Mount Manghilao in Danao City, Cebu. What’s more, I and the rest of the squad had a creepy yet fun experience in a mysterious cave, making my day hike even more exciting.
Our Mount Manghilao experience
Our trip to Mount Manghilao, Danao started with a meet-up at Sungold near SM City Cebu. For this weekend adventure, I was joined by a few members of my squad – Coach Ren, Gelique, Shiela and Team Bang’s electric real-life Sakuragi, Idol. To make things even better, a charming Cebuana hiker – Ofelia – also tagged along with us for this day hike to Mount Manghilao.
Once everyone was ready and geared up, we wasted no time, and headed to Danao’s terminal via an extremely crowded jeep.
From there, the team bought food for lunch, and traveled to the jump off point of Mount Manghilao through a trio of habal-habals, or also known as motorcycle taxis.
My hike to Mount Manghilao was no ordinary Team Bang trip. Normally, I hike mountains to learn, have fun as well as escape the monotony of everyday life. This time, I was hiking for a more spiritual purpose.
Unbeknown to my teammates, I hiked Mount Manghilao also to say my prayers and thank the man above for giving me another year. As a mountainous pilgrimage site, I thought Mount Manghilao was the ultimate place, to do a pre-birthday climb and leave a thank you note to the universal life force.
And so, upon our arrival, I urged everyone in my team, to buy some candles, so we can all say a prayer on the summit of Mount Manghilao.
After buying candles and water at Saicy Store, we made a short prayer, led by Gelique, and commenced on our hike to Mount Manghilao.
Like most of our recent day hikes, we hiked without any guide, relying only on our sense of direction and the help of the locals.
As for the trail, it was relatively easy, by the seasoned hiker’s standards. Despite the slippery spots and loose rocks, our overall hike to Mount Manghilao wasn’t back-breaking and painful.
Yet, there was something eerie about the trail. Clearly, I’m not a paranormal expert, but I could sense that the place is mystical, and has a long intriguing history. Whether it was because of its remote location or uncommon atmosphere, the whole area exudes an aura of mystery.
There was a slight confusion on the exact whereabouts of Mount Manghilao. There weren’t any locals in the area, and sometimes we felt like we were heading to the wrong direction.
Fortunately, we took the right path to Mount Manghilao. Moments later, a glimpse of hope appeared in front of our eyes, when we caught sight of the beautiful black cross of Mount Manghilao.
We, then, followed the trail, which, by the way, has some concrete steps.
As we were about to reach Mount Manghilao, Idol felt like he was about to have a poop explosion. Eventually, Idol was forced to take a dump, somewhere bushy at the foot of Mount Manghilao.
And since the trail was pretty straightforward, the rest of the team went ahead, while Idol was shooting the torpedo.
With his Sakuragi-like energy and enthusiasm, Idol got to catch up with the rest of the gang, when we were about to reach the summit.
As soon as we reached the summit, we were treated to a sweet panorama of Danao city as well as the neighboring mountains in Northern Cebu.
Furthermore, we got to a see an overlooking view of the now-famous so-called Chocolate Hills of Lataban, Lilo-an.
As usual, we took turns posing in front of the landmark, with our trademark poses and maoy-maoy talekogenic shots.
For a while, the weather didn’t cooperate with us, showering with us mild drops and covering the skies with dark, gray skies.
Thankfully, the rain didn’t last very long, and soon, we resumed with our pictorial traditions.
With everyone busy with their photo-shoots, I took some time exploring Mount Manghilao. And in my exploration, I’ve discovered a mishmash of trails that could lead to a great adventure. Likewise, I felt like the mountain has a cave nearby, judging by its typography and rock formations.
Moments later, a sprightly and cheerful family arrived at the scene, as we were soaking the scenery and vistas from Mount Manghilao.
And, everyone in the family, especially ma’am Angel Hermosilla Delicano, was so friendly, accommodating and informative. As a matter of fact, she even volunteered to take a group photo of us.
Furthermore, she spent some time with us, talking about the beautiful history and origins of the cross in Mount Manghilao.
As what we’ve learned through ma’am Angel Hermosilla Delicano, the elderly locals of the area believed that Mount Manghilao was once an inactive volcano that could erupt at any time.
Truthfully, I was rather shocked by what I just found out. As far as I know, Cebu is a volcano-free island. But, some of the points that the elderly locals were saying were pretty fair and logical.
Before the cross was built, Manghilao was often visited by strange occurrences and natural calamities. Moreover, the mountainous area was strangely flooded with mud.
Rumor has it that a few decades ago, people could hear strong sounds of water flowing underneath the grounds of this mountainous region in Danao.
“They say, it was like there was a strong boiling water pressure below the surface” said ma’am Angel. To make things even worse, the place was a frequent target of heavy downpours. One day, the grounds of this side in Danao, all of a sudden, cracked for no apparent reason.
In the midst of this series of calamities, a man living area had a dream about Danao’s volcano, and was instructed by the Supreme Being to build a cross at the highest peak of Danao. In his dreams, he was told that building this cross was the only way to stop the volcano from erupting.
With the blessings and approval of the parish man, the locals in the area built the black heavy cross on top of Mount Manghilao. And ever since then, the tragedies and calamities in the region came to a halt.
And yes folks, I did enjoy every word that came out of ma’am Angel’s mouth. Honestly, it was music to my ears and, hands down, one of the highlights of our recent trip to Danao City, Cebu.
Although some skeptic people will say it is quintessential Filipino folklore, I do think it’s a great take on the history of Mount Manghilao. Plus, I believe that there’s something out-of-ordinary in Mount Manghilao. As I’ve said earlier, the place has a strange and otherworldly feel.
Don’t believe me? Why don’t you go, and check it out?
On top of it all, these stories sparked my imagination, gave me some inspiration and fed my undying hunger for knowledge. As a writer, it’s pretty essential for me, to learn and hear stories as intriguing as the history of Mount Manghilao.
And that’s why I love talking to people on the trail, when I hike with a bunch of people. I’m an introvert, by nature, but whenever I’m hiking with others, I suddenly become a talkative dude who never runs out of questions and stories.
Later on, ma’am Angel revealed that Mount Manghilao is host to a couple of caves. And, guess what? We did explore one of its caves, even without a guide.
Getting to the cave in Mount Manghilao was no joke. With prickly plants, mosquitoes and steep rocks along the trail, getting to the cave wasn’t as easy as our hike to the summit.
I even had tons of scratches on my legs and feet, following our hike. Not to mention, there were plenty of sadistic ants who I thought were on steroids. Seriously, these ant bites definitely sting and hurt.
After a couple of minutes, we finally found the entrance to one of the caves.
Getting inside the cave wasn’t easy, and requires some acrobatics. But the thing is, Team Bang has always been a solid unit that believes in the power of teamwork. With a little push and guidance, everyone in the clique got to set foot on the cave.
At first, the cave didn’t seem scary or creepy. With its short length and vandalized walls, supernatural beings were the last thing in my end, on our cave exploration.
As we took pictures of the cave, however, Shiela could hear of a sound of woman laughing with us. Likewise, there were so many other strange noises inside the cave, including whispers.
We didn’t mind it, and went on with our business, snapping photos of the cave.
After our one-by-one shots, Idol opened his bag, and showed us his spooky costume that looked fit to the backdrop.
The costume is so eerie that Ofelia and Coach Ren couldn’t dare laying eyes on it.
Still, we went on with our Halloween pictorials with Idol as our model.
While taking pictures, a strong and spine-tingling thud came out of nowhere, scaring the daylights out of Shiela and Gelique.
It was a big bang, like a 50-pound stone or barbell slammed by a gigantic man into the ground.
I could clearly hear it because it felt like it happened right beside me. And the strange part was, there were no huge rocks or any living being in that spot.
As you might expect, Gelique and Shiela blitzed their way out of the dark areas in the cave, leaving us behind.
I, meanwhile, didn’t know what to do since I wasn’t exactly sure where it came from. In the end, I opted to leave that area because that was a sound perhaps science and physics cannot explain.
Idol had no reactions because he couldn’t hear or see anything, thanks to his costume.
Soon after, he found out what transpired, and was scrambling to leave the cave’s dark spots.
“Sa Army, walang iwanan (in the Army, no one gets left behind)”, said Idol. I admit – Idol has a point. Even in times of trouble and danger, you should never leave your comrades or partners behind.
But on second thought, his remarks were somewhat hilarious and irrelevant to us. After all, we’re not a national military force that’s in midst of a heated battle.
We’re just a bunch of travel junkies, diving into the unknown and stepping out of our comfort zones, for the sake of fun and adventure.
And besides, I don’t think even the bravest ground forces have the artillery, skills and tactics to fight spirits and encantados. Fictional movies aside, have you ever seen anyone slay a kapre or a tikbalang?
I guess Idol was simply overwhelmed or stunned by the recent string of events. Or maybe, he watches too much Coco Martin or Lito Lapid clips on Youtube. Either way, next time, we will never you leave you, Idol, even if we aren’t officially trained military servicemen or ghost-busters.
And, in spite of that WTF moment, it was still a fun and memorable experience for the team.
Before leaving this cave in Mount Manghilao, we said sorry and bade farewell to the beings we disturbed inside the cave.
Afterwards, we hiked up to the summit of Mount Manhilao where the Delicano family offered us a free lunch. Didn’t we say they were a friendly and charming family?
Then, we said our goodbyes to the family, and descended to the base of Mount Manghilao, to cap off our Saturday hiking adventure.
How to get there:
From Sungold near SM City Cebu, take a jeepney ride bound for Danao City Terminal. There, charter a habal-habal that will to you to Saicy Store or the base of Mount Manghilao, Masaba. Then, ask the locals about the location of the trail leading to the summit.
Don’t have a good sense of direction? Some say there are kids who offer guide services to the Mount Manghilao. As for the price, I’m not so sure how much it will cost you, but normally, it’s negotiable.
Mount Manghilao expenses:
- Jeepney ride to Danao: PHP 35
- Habal-habal ride to the base: PHP 35 to 50
- Habal-habal ride back to Danao: PHP 35 to 50
There are also V-hires available that offer rides between SM City Cebu and Danao for PHP 50 per person.
Our Mount Manghilao itinerary:
- 06:00 AM: Meet up at Sungold
- 07:15 AM: Depart from Cebu
- 08:15 AM: ETA Danao/buy food
- 08:30 AM: Depart from Danao terminal
- 09:00 AM: ETA Saicy Store
- 09:15 AM: Start hike to Mount Manghilao
- 09:50 AM: ETA Mount Manghilao
- 10:30 AM: Descend to the cave
- 11:00 AM: ETA Cave
- 11:20 AM: Depart from the cave
- 12:00 PM: ETA summit of Mount Manghilao/Lunch
- 12:30 PM: Depart from the summit
- 01:00 PM: ETA Saicy Store/wait for habal-habal
- 01:30 PM: Depart from Saicy Store
- 02:15 PM: ETA Danao Terminal
- 02:30 PM: Depart from Danao
- 03:30 PM: SM City Cebu/snacks
Other things to take note:
- Wear arm guards, sturdy footwear and a hat, to protect your skin from the sun’s heat and prickly plants.
- Pack trail food and lunch.
- Bring ION beverages like Pocari Sweat and Gatorade.
- Bring at least 1 liter of water.
- Practice the LEAVE NO TRACE principles.
- Be respectful of the place. Remember, Mount Manghilao is a sacred pilgrimage site for the locals in Danao.
There’s so much more to hiking than the breathtaking panoramas and the feeling of conquering a challenge. The next time you hit the trail, listen to the people surrounding you, and absorb all the knowledge, wisdom and information that you can get from them. Trust me, there’s a lot you can learn from a hiking experience even in a local nearby trail. Ciao!