The months of September and October (so far) have been eventful for me. Two weekend hikes, one camping night, one major climb, a trip to the beach, a visit to my home province, and just recently, a major concert film. But despite all of these happening in succession, I found myself unable to write. Sometimes, it's just hard too focus on one thing when you have all these adrenaline-filled activities in your mind and the different emotions overlap.
So I did what I usually do when I find myself stuck. I read my past blog posts. While I was skimming through my previous writings, I realized I forgot to talk about an interesting thing about Mt. Madja-as.
Did you know that this imposing mountain is not only known for its mystical forests but also for its revered mythology? Revered is not an exaggeration because my friends and I have witnessed this first hand how they hold Mt. Madja-as in high regard. From ordinary locals to government officials, you will hear people talk about this mountain in a tone of great honor and respect.
Mt. Madja-as and its mythical lores
A quick Google search about Mt. Madja-as' mythology will lead you to Sidapa, the Visayan god of death. It was said that he came down from the sky and made Mt. Madja-as his abode. Captivated by the moon gods, he offered them siren songs, sweet flowers, and brightly-lit fireflies. Bulan, one of the seven moon gods who was childlike and androgynous, responded to Sidapa’s offerings and descended to the sea. However, he was attacked by the jealous Bakunawa, a serpent-like dragon, who wanted Bulan for himself. Sidapa saved Bulan from the moon eater, and local legends says that they are still together in their mountain home to this day.
The story my friends and I heard during our orientation though was completely different. The tourism officer told us that it was a love triangle among deities of the mighty mountains of Visayas. It was said that Madja-as was a beautiful diwata who was courted by Kanlaon (the deity of Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Occidental) and Baloy (the deity of Mt. Baloy Daku in Valderrama, Antique). Kanlaon captured Madja-as' heart in the end and together, they had three offsprings: Maningning, Batbatan and Mararison. Bitter and heartbroken, Baloy sought help from an enchantress who cursed Madja-as. Her family were separated. Kanlaon was thrown in the faraway province of Negros Occidental and their three children became the three islands surrounding province of Antique. In despair, Madja-as wept and the mountain's fourteen waterfalls now represent her tears.
These are just some of the versions of the mythical lores surrounding Mt. Madja-as. Whichever you choose to believe, one thing is for sure... the locals, especially the people of Culasi, continue to venerate this mountain. They implore her for good weather, protection, bounty, and health.
Mt. Madja-as and its enchanting bonsai forest
Another aspect that makes Mt. Madja-as famous is the crown shyness of its forest trees. I like how Meg Lowman, a tropical rainforest canopy biologist, describes crown shyness as the "arboreal version of social distancing" because in literal and functional sense, it truly is. The trees withdraw as survival mechanism: to protect each other and themselves.
The forest canopies of Mt. Madjaas have one of the most defined crown shyness phenomenon in the Philippines. Any Filipino hiker would tell you to climb this mountain if you're looking for that picture-perfect shot with the bonsai trees.
On a good weather, the gaps become more defined to the eyes. If you look up, the blue sky serves as a canvas and the web-like canopies, the art.
Unfortunately, in my two attempts in Mt. Madja-as, the bonsai forest was enveloped by fog. It was like a Van Gogh splashed over by a de Goya shade. There's stillness and mystery, and for some unexplainable reason, peace. It's a whole different kind of experience being surrounded by these fog-cloaked trees.
Despite not being given a colorful day, my friends and I had fun snapping photos from different angles. The surreal scene of the forest trees plus the intriguing myth it holds complete the allure of Mt. Madja-as' bonsai forest.
I hope this post will inspire you to visit one of Antique's gems. If you want to see how the bonsai forest looks like on a sunny day, here a link to a video to give you an idea. 😁
Maria is a hopeless romantic who travels in pages and places. She is an INFP who loves sunrises and moonlight nights and reading books in between. On weekdays, she works for a self-publishing company as a copywriter. On weekends, she lives for life as a poet or hiker. She hopes to share her love for words and the world with you here on HIVE.