Slouching toward Mount Banahaw

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MOUNT BANAHAW, QUEZON -- Water is flowing again within Mount Banahaw, noted someone who intends to visit the "Holy Mountain" on Holy Week. Last year water was scarce. Skeptics have a scientific explanation for this: El Niņo ravaged the country last year and Banahaw was not spared this environmental phenomenon. However, for the pilgrims and believers, this means that Banahaw is no longer disappointed-she no longer "hides her water." Banahaw's "disappointment" is said to stem from issues related to commercialization. Whenever business-minded persons fetched water from the springs by the gallons and sold them at ridiculous prices to the tourists, the water would disappear. When the government planned to build a superhighway that would run through the mountain, the water disappeared for months. The campaign of pilgrims and environmental groups did not prove futile: the project had to be changed and the water came back. Call it a crazy explanation, but the belief that they have regained the mountain's "trust"-as evidenced by the water flowing from the springs and waterfalls-has lifted the spirits of the people in the area.

Banahaw is their sacred mountain: She continuously manifests her protective powers through events that appear miraculous and certainly providential, even though these may be dismissed by outsiders as pure coincidence.

Banahaw protects her chosen ones: no outside threat can disturb the people's serene faith, their ineffable peace. Gratefully they dedicate their own sacrifices. With hymns and rituals, wearing ceremonial garb, they periodically sweep the templo, dredge the sacred pool, repair the footpaths for the pilgrims, trim the grass and the branches of the trees, and burn the refuse left in the sacred groves by the thoughtless tourists.

There are basically four categories of people who frequently climb Mount Banahaw. First, there are the religious, the sects who consider the mountain the site of the New Jerusalem. There are those who scale the slopes of Banahaw as part of their sacrifice in exchange for blessings or "miracles" that they are seeking, including the cure for those suffering from sickness. Other visitors are in search of anting-anting, psychic or paranormal experiences. Then there are mountaineers or outdoor groups wanting to breathe fresh air from one of Southern Luzon's largest forests.

Through the years, the number of religious sects in Mount Banahaw has grown to 168. Seventy-three of these are members of the Mount Banahaw Holy Confederation. As they believe that the mountain is the "New Jerusalem" the holy parts of the mountain are called puestos in Dolores and Sariaya and erehiya in Tayabas. The puestos normally represent the elements: earth, water, air and fire.

Superstitions abound for trekkers and pilgrims. One must request permission before starting the climb so as to ensure the guidance of the spirits. These spirits make their presence felt through strange lights or luminous objects, the eerie feeling that one is being watched along the trail, cold air enveloping one's body, and other manifestations. Some even see supernatural beings like dwarfs. The boisterous laughter of a group will earn them the ire of the spirits-they may find themselves drenched in rain while other groups in the vicinity remain completely dry. There are those who say that the crater of Banahaw is the perfect landing site for UFOs.

If Banahaw is known as the Holy Mountain, myth has it that the nearby mountain, Mount San Cristobal, is the "bad mountain." There, a spirit called Tumao is believed to haunt hikers and subject them to weird phenomena.

- April 4 1999

[This message was from CBR posted on the RP Fidonet Outdoors Echo from ]
Source: Bundok Philippines News.

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