Fresh from our quick stop-over at the neighboring town of Boljoon, we impatiently waited for a bus that will take us to that famous junction at the town of Dalaguete. We were on our way to conquer Cebu’s highest peak, the Osmeña Peak.
This was my third climb in a span of one year. The first one happened November 2011 where I joined three of my friends on a spur-of-the-moment trek to witness the scenic and captivating view of O’Peak, as well as the mountain ranges that surround it. I’m not really a mountain person (if there’s even such word) but the moment I learned that my friend was summiting Cebu’s highest point, I could almost feel my feet clapping in excitement while my shoulders giggled at the thought of joining him and friends to accomplish what I thought would be an extreme adventure of a lifetime.
Osmeña Peak, rising more than 1000 meters above sea level, is considered to be the highest peak in the province of Cebu. The peak is a favorite trekking destination among campers and mountaineers. Although the actual climb starting from the foot of the mountain is not entirely that difficult, the trail going there proves to be more challenging.
There are different entry points to reach O’Peak but the common one is through that junction at the town of Dalaguete, southwest of Cebu. We had to endure the deafening chorus of habal-habal drivers who persistently convinced us to hire them for the 30-minute ride to Mantalongon, the small village that houses Cebu’s rooftop. Soon after, we found ourselves cruising uphill while traversing the winding road leading to Mantalongon. Though 95% of the road is well-paved, it won’t guarantee a sore less ride, not to mention the chance of rolling down deep into ravines if extra caution is not practiced.
We knew we were almost near the village when the temperature suddenly dropped and the cold wind started kissing our naked skin. During the cold and wet season, temperature even drops to as low as 18 degrees Celsius. Because of the cool weather in this side of Cebu, the signage that says “Summer Capital of Cebu” greeted us as we reached the village. In fact, Mantalongon is also dubbed as the “little Baguio of Cebu”. It’s also safe to coin it as Cebu’s vegetable capital since majority of Cebu’s vegetables are grown here.
It won’t be another 15 minutes before we reached the foot of the peak when we asked a habal-habal driver to take us all the way to the foot of the mountain during our third trek. We were pressed with time, you see, and we might not witness the enchanting beauty of the sunset. But on my first attempt to conquer O’Peak, my friends and I decided to embark on that 2-hour scenic trek to also witness how simple life unfolded in that quaint town.
The road leading to the foot of the mountain is covered with white limestone rocks. It’s a guaranteed butt-numbing ride via a habal-habal but the 2-hour trek is even more tiresome as we walked up and down hills before reaching the base of the mountain on a hot afternoon. I guess the only consolation to subjecting ourselves to that agony was the chance of meeting friendly locals on the way while admiring the beauty of the mountain ranges that revealed their exquisite shapes as we got nearer.
Before starting off the real climb, we asked kids to point us to where we can refill our supply of water as access to fresh water is nearby. What we didn’t expect was meeting the most stubborn creature that delayed our trek. A cow blocked our way. No matter what we tried, it won’t budge and won’t allow access to the trail behind him. Turned out we were headed the wrong way. I could almost imagine the cow scoffing at four idiots who tried to cow-talk him to invade his private space.
After getting side-tracked, my friends and I started the 30-minute climb to reach the summit. The trek was not difficult. However, the easy climb may be a challenge when the heavens decide to shower the vast vegetation in Mantalongon. One must be prepared for that muddy and slippery trek. Zero visibility is not far from happening too. But on regular days, the mountain trail is visible, rocks that form the trail becomes handy as they provide a good grip for wandering soles.
Before we knew it, we’ve already reached the top. Standing on Cebu’s highest Peak fattened our hearts with pride as we finally made it to the summit. Wherever we look, the magnificent karst topography greeted our weary body and refreshed our exhausted spirits. The vast mountain ranges that extend beyond the horizon are reminiscent of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol except that those in O’Peak have pointed hilltops. On a clear day, one will get a glimpse of the neighboring island of Negros and a peek below shows off Badian Island, famed for its pristine beach, and Pescador Island, a diving haven for underwater enthusiasts.
No words could describe how lucky and happy all of us felt when we reached the captivating and breathtaking view of Osmeña Peak. Watch out for the unforgiving cold wind though as it takes joy in teasing curious trekkers, sending shivers of goose bumps all over for that dramatic touch.
South of where we were standing, dark clouds started gliding towards us threatening to ruin our chances of kissing the sun goodnight at Cebu’s highest summit. By this time, the chilling wind whispered caution to our freezing ears to start heading back before the entire peak gets covered with fog and rain. We unwillingly accepted defeat. We gave up too easily and declared it was time to head back to the village for our own safety.
Osmeña Peak welcomes anyone who wishes to call upon her. The easy climb to see her is a clear gesture of her warm reception. All she asks in return is that you treat her with care and she’ll surely return the favor. The experience of summiting Cebu’s highest peak will not only leave you breathless but will surely rejuvenate your soul.