Friday, May 15, 2015

Rugged Tropical Mountains: Bucari, Leon, Iloilo

             Bucari, a barangay in Leon, Iloilo is an excellent destination to those tourists seeking refuge from the sweltering summer heat. It is hailed as Iloilo’s “Little Baguio” for its cool climate (that drops up to 9° C during December and 18-20° C in other months), beautiful landscapes with magnificent mountains, lush green terraces and pine forests as well as refreshing springs and waterfalls. Hence, it is an ideal place for camping, hiking, trekking, mountain-bike riding, etc.

            Furthermore, the place is also known for their agricultural products especially for its high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables including: bananas, mangoes, cabbages, carrots, strawberries, asparagus, etc. Their farmer’s grow their crops at the side of hills and mountains in rice terraces because of its mountainous terrain. It has been cultivated and passed for centuries already.

Sites to Explore:

Tabionan Campsite

            The smell of the forest pine and the streaks of light passing through the twigs and branches from the gorgeous towering pine trees will welcome you once you arrived at the Tabionan Campsite. The campsite is part of a 5, 500 hectare reforestation project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Aganan Watershed.

            At night, an exciting scene is always to look for, as small blinking creatures called fireflies illuminates the whole campsite as they twinkle in the air. MAJESTIC! Isn’t it? However, there are no hotels or resort around the campsite but one can opt to bring his own tent or rent a tent or an overnight cottage (check the rates below):

  • Using own tent: P 100.00
  • Tent rental (maximum of 4 persons): P 300.00
  • Overnight cottage or “bahay kubo” (maximum of 6 to 8 persons): P 1, 200.00

          Aside from the accommodation, they offer also “paluto” for the food during the stay. It is prepared by the residents of the community which also serves as a tour guide. Usual dishes being prepared includes: native chicken adobo (chicken simmered in marinade), linagpang (grilled native chicken cooked in broth with spices), etc.

            For inquiries and reservation, you may contact: Mr. Evan Calaor (Camp Administrator) at +63936-746-4742.

            Other options: Tourists may also rent cottage at Talon Inn which is operated by the parent-teacher association of Bucari National High School or at the Pineridge Bucari Mountain Resort which are 1 to 2 km away from the campsite.

Mansiga Viewing Deck and Cave

            The viewing deck offers the best panoramic view of Bucari’s mountain ranges and to as far as Iloilo City and Guimaras Island. In order to reach this magnificent viewing deck, one needs to take an exhilarating trek from the Tabionan Campsite.

Photo credits to: Philip Serra

            Voila! This is the Mansiga Viewing Deck. It is still surrounded by pine trees and what makes it more picturesque?! It’s the fallen pine tree at the top that lay over the cliff and the end is suspended mid-air. I couldn’t resist asking my tour guide and driver – Kevin to take photos of me with the fallen pine tree. Impressively beautiful!

            Another spectacular view that the Mansiga Viewing Deck offers is the big off-white limestone karst formation. According to Leon’s Official website, there’s a cave inside and to have an access to its entrance, a person has to lower himself about 30 feet below the side of the cliff.

Strawberry Farm

            Picking such fruit straight from the plantation is a unique and awesome experience especially for those who are living in an urban city. This is one of the activities that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Bucari, Leon, Iloilo for there’s already a strawberry farm available.

            However, the strawberry farm is privately owned. Therefore, you need to ask permission at their office or contact the person in-charge (Contact number: +63922-8976057). Good thing, I was allowed to enter the premises of the farm. So, without any hesitation I joined the caretakers of the farm and tried picking strawberries.

As we continue to pick strawberries, I couldn’t resist eating some of them. The caretakers are very accommodating. In fact, they shared some basic facts about strawberries. Here’s some: strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside and can easily be distinguished if it’s ready for harvest because of its bright red color.

            Take note: The produce of this farm are being sold at Iloilo Supermart and some are used by hotels and restaurants in Iloilo.

Photo credits to: Ben Jeremy Ong
Imoy and Combong Waterfalls

         Aside from the campsite, the viewing deck and the strawberry farm, Bucari also boasts a handful of good waterfalls. Situated in Sitio Camandag, tourists can take a dip, dive or rappel down at Imoy Waterfall. The waterfall is surrounded by wild flowers and trees which makes it even refreshing.

Photo credits to: Ben Jeremy Ong

            Another waterfall named Combong can be seen a few meters of ascending trek from Imoy Waterfall. The waterfall appeals among the teenage locals or even to those adventure seeking tourists who likes to perform some acrobatic dives from the waterfall’s cliff going down to its natural pool which is 12 feet deep.

How to Get There:

            The town of Leon, Iloilo is approximately an hour away from Jaro Big Market (located at the back of Iloilo’s Jaro Cathedral) where the terminal is located. You may opt to ride a jeepney or a van going to Leon proper, but I recommend van for a more comfortable and faster ride. Fare: P 60.00 The jeepney or van will drop you off in Leon Public Plaza wherein a lot of motorcycle drivers awaits and offers you a ride.

Bucari is almost an hour away from the town proper of Leon. It is accessible by jeepney and motorcycle. So, if you choose to ride using a motorcycle, ride starts at P 250.00 for one-way (depending on your convincing powers). However, if you choose to ride jeepney which leaves hourly from the terminal from 7AM to 3PM and the last trip to Leon proper from Bucari is at 3PM though at times earlier an hour.)

Take note: To those who will choose to ride a motorcycle going to Bucari from Leon proper (which is I think better way than riding the jeepney especially when you’re only there for a day tour) I recommend my driver who happened to be my tour guide, photographer and porter – Kevin Bodjet Caonan. You may contact him at: +63946-733-1755 and just mention me that I referred him.

            Thank you for reading!

            For more photos, kindly visit: Rugged Tropical Mountains: Bucari, Leon

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