Silay City, Negros Occidental
Major jumpoff: 'Hospital', Brgy. Patag, Silay City
Alternate jumpoff: Sitio Campuestohan, Brgy. Cabatangan, Talisay
LLA: 1683 MASL (MP); 1450 MASL (TD)
Hours to destination / Days required: 4-6h (MP), 3-5h (TD) / 1-3d
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 4/9 (TD), 7/9 (all), Trail class 1-4
Features: Sulfur vents, crater lakes, tropical rainforest
Article history: Created August 21, 2012
Completing the trilogy of Negros mountains, alongside Mt. Kanlaon and Mt. Talinis, is the crown jewel of the North Negros Forest Reserve, Mt. Mandalagan in Silay City. Richly forested, with majestic almaciga trees, and replete with rivers, waterfalls, and hidden lakes, Mt. Mandalagan is classified by PHIVOLCS as a 'potentially active volcano', and indeed, its most prominent and unique features are those wrought by volcanic activity.
The 2-km wide plateau and occasional lagoon, Tinagong Dagat, is said to be its main crater; it can be likened to Margaha Valley in Mt. Kanlaon. Its name means 'hidden sea', owing to what locals describe as a seemingly-marine behavior of its waters rising and waning, as if it had high and low tides. During the rainy season, it is possible to see Tinagong Dagat as a lagoon. Set at a respectable altitude of 1450 MASL, this is the major attraction of Mt. Mandalagan, and the main destination in a regular two-day trek up the mountain.
Two hours away from Tinagong Dagat to the east, Solfatara (also called 'Solfotara') is a field of fumaroles and mud pools whose name derives from the Latin 'sulpha terra' which means 'land of sulfur'. It is also known as 'Sulfur dako' (Big Sulfur) to distinguish it from another, smaller field known as 'Sulfur gamay' (Small Sulfur), which is also accessible via a lesser-known trail going to Campuestohan in Talisay, Negros Occidental.
As for peakbaggers, the highest reachable peak in the trail system is the Marapara Peak, 1683 MASL. It is also accessible from Brgy. Patag, requiring 4-6 hours in a southward direction; the final assault is said to involve steep sections through dense forests. From Marapara Peak, a westward descent can lead to Campuestohan, Talisay City, although it is also possible to continue south to connect to Tinagong Dagat (specific details of these trails are still lacking). Marapara Peak has a small flat area where a few tents can fit, but unlike the other major features highlighted above, there are no water sources in Marapara Peak.
The three destinations and the exit points can be combined, creating countless permutations that can require 1-3 days of trekking. Since it is the loveliest campsite of them all, Tinagong Dagat can be the base for exploring Solfatara, then back to Brgy. Patag in a two-day trek. On the other hand, that same trek can end up in Marapara Peak on the second night, allowing for another day to exit to Talisay City in a three-day trek. Finally, guides say that from Tinagong Dagat, there is a long trail that leads to Murcia, which leaves open the possibility of a connection to Kanlaon -- a week-long trek through North to Central Negros! The possibilities are truly endless!