||The Altar of Mt. Banahaw
By Troy Bernardo
Friday, October 5, 2001
The legendary Agrapino Lontok was the
first mystic to declare Mt. Banahaw sacred, a myterious message
had told him so. Today around 17 religious sects of different
beliefs and rituals echo Lontok’s statement, endowing
the mountain with special powers; an estimated 60 cults have
set up camp within its base.
“Those who are sensitive to paranormal
forces often talk about psychic encounters with the unknown
here at Mt. Banahaw,” says Sor Virginia Toledo, one of
the cultists living in the area. “People have mystical
dreams, visions of energy vortices, spirits, UFO sightings,
and apparitions of the ‘Father’.”
She explained that if the earth were
like a person with energy centers (called chakras), then the
earth would have its own natural power centers as well.
Mt. Banahaw could be on one such energy
spot. And since energy centers in people can be put into
activivity through prayer and meditation, the earth would be
no different. Thus, with all the spiritually
concentrated on Mt. Banahaw, it is no wonder that the mountain
has gained a reputation as a healing
center, a high concentration of energies, and a mystical vortex.
“Many spiritual groups and mystics
consider the mountain sacred,” writes Jaime Licauco, an
expert on the workings of the inner mind. “They have identified
over a hundred specific places in Mt. Banahaw called
puestos, to be sacred and should be respected and even venerated.
They consider the entire mountain to be the New Jerusalem.”
Whatever the mystics say, however, the
secrets of Mt. Banahaw is best uncovered through experience.
The Mystical Tour
At first glance, Mt. Banahaw, an extinct
volcano, is no different from other mountains in the Philippines.
This 2,188-meter national park offers the same ambiance, the
same serene, consciousness-expanding atmosphere of, say, any
other peak. According to Fr. Huerta, a geographer for Estado
Geographica, Mt. Banahaw’s crater used to be occupied
by a lake until 1730, when an eruption burst open the southern
rim and let the water and lava flow out. Mt. Banahaw is also
called the “vulcan de aqua” because of these numerous
One such spring is the tour’s first
stop, the Kristalino Falls (Crystalline Falls), a 30-m waterfall
surrounded be vine-covered trees, ferns, palms, and bamboos.
Less than a two-hour trek away is a second waterfall, whose
surrounding area is ideal for a campsite.
A third spring can be found after traversing
one of the most difficult portions of the trail, a vertical
leading to a very narrow ridge over a minute waterfall called
Salamin Bubog (Glass Mirror). Named after how its water appear,
the water is known for its taste and its boulders, and you arrive
at the 30-meter high entrance of Kuweba ng Dios Ama (Cave of
God the Father).
Other such sacred landmarks dot the mountain,
like the Pintong Lihim ( Hidden Door); the Niluhuran
(place where trees knelt); the Santong Durungawan (Holy Window),
which comprises the first peak; and minor spots like the Kuwebang
Usa (Deer Cave) and Katedral (Cathedral).
The crater itself, shaped like a winding
canyon with walls 915 meters high and a floor that’s spread
27 to 46 meters wide, can be reached on foot in a day. At the
far end of the north wall, a good slippery walk through
boulders from the crater, is a 152-meter waterfall. But along
the eastern side of the crater, one can find two distinct water
sources: Tubig ng Gatas (Milk Water) and Tubig ng Dugo (Blood
Water); a geographical
wonder that allows two springs, one white and the other red,
to run down veins from the top to the bottom of the pit.
The Holy Mountain
The mountain tour normally takes 2-3
days and is classified as moderate to streneous by ESP Travel
and Tours, but pilgrims suggest that you take your time.
“There are several spots in the
mountain that deserve your time and attention,” said Sor
Virginia. “ Some
people just come here treating these sacred sights like a checklist
on a tour guide. They just want to see as much as they can without
thinking about what these places mean.”
In many ways, she is right. Whether you
beleive in the paranormal or not, nature does deserve a little
more attention than we often give it. Our souls, in fact, crave
for even more. If we devoted as much time to our inner selves
as we do our physical appearance, then, as Sor Virginia put
it, “the world would have more positive energy.”
For the regular non-spiritual tourist,
however, Mt. Banahaw is an interesting place to visit. At the
how many tourist sites in the world are described as “
a psychic center where many go for spiritual
meditations,” as written by ESP Travel and Tours, “(with)
many features like waterfalls, caves, trees, springs, and other
sites are attributed to spiritual beings”?
Mt. Banahaw is about 170 kilomerters southeast of Manila. You
can reach it by taking a bus to San Pablo, Laguna, then a jeepney
to Barangay Kinabuhayan, Dolores, Quezon Province. Other jump-off
points include Lucban and Tayabas, Quezon.
About the Author
Troy V. Bernardo is Channel Editor for Travel. He can be reached