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  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 springs.

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 wall
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 very least,
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”?

Probably none.

Additional info
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 at