The mountain’s Hersheys chocolate kisses-like shape makes it an eye-catching roadside attraction when passing through the main highway of Pasadeña to Barotuan, about 12km north of El Nido from the town center. But it took a while before someone conquered the summit of Mt Mansilawit despite its low elevation as there were tales of giant snakes and notorious monkeys living on this mountain. Pasadeña Native couple, Sylvia and Alex were brave enough to explore and are now lead guides to share the wonders of this little mountain. I decided to bike here from town since I’ve been curious about this mountain and I thought biking would be the best way to see other places en route. It took me almost an hour to reach the signage pointing the way to the mountain.
Breaking the Mountain Myths
“Kami yung unang nag lagay ng karatula ng Nagkalit-kalit Falls nun 1999. Ampangit pa nga ng pagkagawa at may maling i-spelling pa. (We were the first one to put up the sign for waterfalls back in 1999. It was crudely made and had some wrong spellings too.)” Ms Sylvia Albag fondly recalled. She found the potential of guiding tourist to the falls as a livelihood. Eventually, El Nido Mayor Edna noticed her effort. Her sign was improved and she was sent for formal training as a tourist guide.
It’s no surprise that the couple were also the first one to initiate on making Mt Mansilawit a tourist destination. Finding that the falls is a seasonal attraction being dry from February onwards, they decided to explore the mountain, also from the prodding of fellow foreigners who they have guided. The original Tagbanua native from Coron, Alex, narrated the ordeals they had to go through from retrieving back their land here and how the husband and wife carefully climbed the mountain and were relieved there were no giant snakes nor other hostile creatures. It took some time before they were able to clear up the trail but were happy the local tourism of El Nido acknowledged their efforts. So in 2013 they put up their sign and have officially started guiding guest up to the mountain.
Climbing Mt Mansilawit
The climb to the summit wasn’t really that hard. It’s a low 234meter high mountain and the trail is established already. For them, it takes an easy half hour climb. For guest though, it can take around at least 45 minutes. Kuya ALex was my guide and we were accompanied by his two dogs with Cuyonin names, Opak and Tsatik. The first part was an open trail along the fields then the ascent would be to the rest of the trail. It wasn’t technical but the ascent would sometimes slope 45 degrees higher. There were sandy and rocky parts but they have improvised hand-rails made from vines and wood in the area. Occasionally Kuya Alex would show areas where some of the local animals there lives, like a porcupine and an Eagle living in the wild the community has been fond of having as a neighbor. They like hearing the eagle make noises before it flies out to hunt in the morning. Kuya Alex also seem to know all the type of trees in the area. As a Tagbanua, it was natural for him to be attuned to nature.
Mt Mansilawit summit has nice tree cover and good amount of wind to keep visitors cool. Kuya Alex added some creature comforts like tables and benches made also from the branches found in the area. There were some clearing from the southeast side with a view of the Penangantengan Beach and nearby Mafdet Island with beautiful backdrop of the rest of the Bacuit Bay Islands. North clearing has views Nacpan area and the Lalutaya Islands and nearby Barotuan Town. I could also see the summit has wide enough area for camping. Kuya Alex excitedly told me of his plans for the area like a natural wooden viewdeck for better vantage point and for safety purposes as well. I stayed at one of the benches to simply enjoy the summit. A bit of snack and drinks before we started our descent. Mt Mansilawit is another welcome addition as a light hike destination out of El Nido town and when the Nagkalitkalit Falls is dry. It would also be a good side-trip for people going to Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beach since this is only 6km away.
Look for guides Sylvia and Alex Albag
Guide fee is Php 300 per person but cheaper when in groups.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.