If you’re searching for the perfect way to lose weight, destress and escape from the real world, hiking could be the best measure to achieve these things all at the same time. Compared to spending several hours in the gym, hiking gives you a bonus of picturesque scenes of our nature aside from the additional stamina and weight loss that it can offer us.
In search of a more fun mountain experience, mountaineers often go hiking in volcanoes- active volcanoes to be exact. It is because of the presence of hot springs around and the beautiful marks on the mountain’s steep left by lava flows.
Here in Cagayan, the municipality of Gonzaga boasts of its very own volcano, the Cagua Volcano which is one of the 23 active volcanoes being monitored by PHIVOLCS as of 2015. It is one of the six active volcanoes in the region, five of which is in Cagayan and one is in Batanes.
But this should not hold you back from experiencing the fun of hiking in active volcanoes. A volcano is only considered active if it has erupted or shown any seismic or volcanic activity during the last 10,000 years. Cagua Volcano has already erupted twice; the first was in 1860 and the last one was in 1907.
The Philippines only has five volcanoes with Permanent Danger Zones (Bulusan, Taal, Mayon, Kanlaon and Hibok-Hibok) and Cagua is not one of them. A PDZ is an area around a volcano where human settlement is not allowed. Cagua has not also shown any of the ten commonly observed signs of an impending eruption of a volcano since its last eruption.
Cagua has a crater diameter of 1.5 kilometers and is classified as a stratovolcano. A stratovolcano or composite volcano is formed over hundreds or thousands of years through multiple eruptions. The eruptions build up the composite volcano, layer upon layer until it towers thousands of meters tall. Some layers might be formed from lava, while others might be ash, rock and pyroclastic flows. This means that Cagua which stands at 1,133 meters can still grow taller every after an eruption. Some of the known stratovolcanoes are Mt. Fuji, Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Mayon.
Cagua Volcano is in the northernmost part of the Sierra Madre mountain range and is located approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Gonzaga and 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) south of Port Irene of Santa Ana. It has two entry points: at Sitio Bagsang where you would take three hours until the crater and at Magrafil where you would trek for two and a half hours. Though it would take longer, officials of the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Gonzaga advise that it is better to take the Bagsang entry point because it is a cleaner and less steep route.
Bagsang Falls is also located near the Bagsang entry point so you might probably want to bathe after the travel to the said entry point and before taking on the 3-hour trek.
For security reasons, Municipal Tourism Officer-designate Jundel John Cabanela strongly urges everyone to coordinate with the LGU of Gonzaga first, specifically with the army and police, before going to the mountain especially if visitors are planning to camp overnight.
As a payment for the guides and porters, 350 pesos is being charged but for the meantime, transportation from the service area up to the trekking point is free and provided by the LGU.
After your long, tiring hike, you might want to walk and perspire a little bit more to freshen up in the six hot springs around the mountain before proceeding with your overnight camping. These six hot springs are the Maasok near the crater; Magrafil in the northwest; Manaring, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north-northeast; San Jose, 10 km (6.2 mi) north-northeast; Kabillangan, 3 km (1.9 mi) northwest and Paminta, 2 km (1.2 mi) north-northwest.
(Take note: One of the ten most commonly observed signs of an impending eruption is the drying up of springs around a volcano so if one of these springs have already dried up when you arrived there, immediately pack your things up and get out of there. )
This three-hour trek may be lengthy and exhausting but we know what our old folks say, “The journey is always more fun than the destination”. Nothing beats the satisfaction of the feeling that you’ve accomplished something after reaching the peak of the mountain.
The author is an AB English graduate of Cagayan State University. He currently works at the Cagayan Provincial Tourism Office.