Solo Backpacking Guimaras Island: Holy Friday in Balaan Bukid

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In my recent solo backpacking trip to the island of Guimaras last Holy Week, I didn't have any fixed itinerary in mind — it was rather a go-solo-and-get-lost kind of trips, which I am now starting to love. The plan was just to have a list of places in Guimaras that are worth visiting and hop from one trike to another to go to those places. Balaan Bukid was not in the list — I didn't know the place existed — but I found myself to be at the perfect place at the perfect time. Read on after the break.

Balaan Bukid is a holy pilgrimage site for Catholics with a shrine and a giant cross that sits on top of the highest peak in Guimaras (the cross is even visible from Iloilo City). In Visayan language, Balaan Bukid means Holy Mountain and during Holy Week, people flock the mountain to pay homage and witness the reenactment of Christ's passion in the annual "Ang Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid."

Crowd from the foot of the mountain. Trek to the top takes 30-45 minutes.

When my motorcycle driver dropped me off at the foot of the mountain, the huge cross was still nowhere to be seen. At that moment, I was having second thoughts if I should proceed and hike to the top of the mountain. But I was already there — no choice but to press on. Even the elderly and small children were climbing up the mountain so there was no sissy excuse not to.

A liter of water and 45 minutes later, I could already see the cross but I was still far from peak. Moving around became difficult as people (families and barkadas) were resting at the sides of the rugged road before the final assault to the top. The midday heat added to my agonizing ascent.

Left photo: People flock outside the Chapel of Ave Maria Purisima. Right photo: The towering Balaan Bukid cross.

I felt like I was Jesus. Except that I was carrying a huge backpack full of clothes (had to check out at El Retiro Beach Park and transfer elsewhere), a tripod, and a bulky DSLR camera — not to mention the armpits that were sweating profusely.

When I reached the top, hundreds of people — if not thousands — flocked the area. Some were trying to go inside the Chapel of Ave Maria Purisima while others just camped outside. A little further down the peak, there were three crosses for the reenactment of the crucifixion but the passion hasn't even started yet when I reached the top. Instead, I took photos of the place and made sure to go down as swiftly as possible to get to my next stop: the old Guisi lighthouse.

Left photo: Site of the reenactment of the Crucifixion. Right photo: View of Jordan Wharf from Balaan Bukid.

Overall, the experience was great. Trekking wasn't part of my to-do-list but it was worth it especially when I got to see the view of Jordan and Iloilo City from the top of Balaan Bukid. A little darker and a few pounds lighter from the calories I burned, I couldnt' have asked for much more.

How to Get to Balaan Bukid, Guimaras Island
From Jordan wharf, take a tricycle going to the foot of the mountain. Alternatively, you can also take a motorcycle if you're traveling alone. From the foot of the mountain, it takes 30-45 minutes to trek along the rugged road. It is advisable that you bring a bottle of water before your ascent or you can just buy one from the stores at the base of the mountain. Read this post if you want to know how to go to Guimaras Island from Iloilo City.

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