Historical TriviaOn a night of beer and roasted suckling pigs, our conversations went in all sorts of different directions. For a while a topic went into names and history. I’m a bit of a history buff and so decided to ask about the origin of the names. One specific question I had to ask was Jasaan’s origin. Jasaan, pronounced as Ha-sa-an, has a “Tagalog” dialect translation which means “whetstone” or something used for sharpening knives or bolos (Filipino machetes). I had to ask whether this holds true in the south, where “Visaya” is the local dialect. To my surprise, Maurice (one of the local climbers) gave a little bit more than just translations. According to history, he said, during Philippines’ pre-Spanish era, missionaries went around and found themselves along the coasts of Misamis Oriental long before they even reached Cebu Island. The story goes a missionary came upon a native tribesman and asked where he was. The local native replied “Ag-hasa” to actually mean he was sharpening his bolo on the rock and nothing more. After a few years and tongue twisty translations the place came to be called Jasaan. Upon closer inspection of the rock in Jasaan, I can conclude that it truly deserves the name. The basalt in Misamis can truly sharpen a knife or a bolo. More than that, Jasaan has I believe, the highest concentration of bouldering in the higher spectrum of the V-scale in the area, becoming a true local proving ground - a place for really sharpening your bouldering. …“So Maurice, how do you know all this?” I took a quick gulp of my icy cold beer and joined the handful of others scrutinizing Maurice for tell tale signs of mischievous mockery. Maurice lifted his eyes from deep focus on the rim of his beer filled glass and met our gaze. He smirked, took a short pause and then spoke in a soft quiet, hesitant voice, “I took an exam for being a historical tour guide around Misamis… but I failed.” We all laughed and continued our haywire musings.
Getting there:From Manila take a plane going to Cagayan de Oro. Planes leave every day and almost every hour. Cebu Pacific Airlines offer the cheapest fares. Be sure to book in advance to get good rates. From CDO airport I recommend taking a taxi to Alwana Climbing Gym at Marco Hotel. It is better to get acquainted with the local climbers first to get fresh news on pertinent bouldering/climbing developments in the area. The gym opens around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Getting to the climbing areas:To Catanico: Take a taxi to Cugman. If coming from the city proper it is about 15min during the morning traffic and about 90-100 pesos (£1.50). At the junction, head straight up F.S. Catanico Road to the Jabal-Jabal terminal (a jabal-jabal is a motorcycle). This same road also leads to a street-side market and also to the Cugman Slaughter House. They usually seat up to two passengers plus baggage! So that could mean you, your friend, the driver, your bags and most possibly 2 more crashpads! The drivers are skilled in the art of riding up and down the rough, hilly roads going to Catanico. All you need to do is relax, keep your arse from bouncing around too much on the saddle and leave the rest to your driver. The Jabal-Jabal takes 20min or less, but try not to go for less time… The two-way trip is about 80-90 pesos for each person. Ask the driver to pick you up at your desired time. Do not forget to ask to get picked-up or else you will be walking all the way back. Tell the driver to take you to Alwana at the end of the day. It is easier to get back to the city from there. To Jasaan: Head for “East Bound Terminal” in Gusa. This is the gateway for travel in CDO. Simply look for the “jeepney” (the public transport popular in the Philippines) that goes to Jasaan. The trip takes about for 35 to 45 minutes along the coastal road. Tell the jeepney driver to drop you off on the road heading up “Twin Hearts”, “Kahulugan”, or “Basamanggas”. The jeep will continue off on the highway but you need to drop-off at this intersection. It is about 25 pesos one-way. From this intersection there is a Jabal-Jabal terminal. Ask to be taken to either “Twin-Hearts” Kimaya (20-30 pesos one-way, 20-25 mins.) or to “Sagpulon” (40-50 pesos one-way, 35 to 45 minutes). The roads will be bumpy!
Where to Stay:There are a lot of places to stay in and around the city. If the plan is to go and hang around the city for a while before hitting the crags, I’d recommend a stay at “Executive Pension.” They have single rooms for 450 pesos, up to triple sharing rooms for 900 pesos. It has fully air-conditioned rooms, cable TV, hot and cold showers, WiFi and a coffee shop. It’s along Mabini Street and you can phone them (88) 856-4360 for advanced booking. The Catanico Bouldering Area is easily accessed from the city. Daily trips to Cugman Terminal for the Jabal-Jabal aren’t too hard to manage from the city centre. If the plan is to go bouldering around Jasaan, it is best to stay at the “Basamangas Resort”. It’s a lot closer to either Kimaya or Sagpulon. The resort is a few minutes’ walk from the Jabal-Jabal Terminal near the highway. The rooms are a bit pricey at 1500-2500 pesos a night, but with special arrangements you can probably jam up to 10 people in them and still pay the same price. Add a little extra and you can get spare mattresses. They have three swimming pools and the rooms are air-conditioned.
When to go:One of the better consequences of geographic location is the weather. Whilst most of the Philippines experiences storms coming from the Pacific, the southern region gets bypassed most of the time. The bouldering season in the south can start as early as August with conditions getting better and better towards December up to February. It then gets hotter from March to May.
Useful Tips and Extras:
- As always, bring insect repellant. It’s our daily cologne before going jungle bouldering.
- Do not forget to get the Jabal Jabal driver’s phone number. In case you need to bail out from your bouldering session for the day due to unforeseen events, this will be your only link out. Better still if you have the local phone SIM cards in use. Try to ask for the SMART SIM rather than the Globe SIM. Apparently, the SMART SIM works better in the jungles.
- If you get scared of the speed that your Jabal-Jabal driver’s going at, it’s o.k. to ask him to slow down. If you feel there’s not enough room for two passengers, you can ask the driver to seat just one passenger, expect the fare to hike up a bit though.
- Make sure to bring along enough food and water for each days trip as there isn’t anywhere near the bouldering areas to get supplies.
- Since access is a bit difficult, bringing a handy first aid kit is a must.
- The water at Catanico Falls and Sagpulon Falls is amazing! Have your swimming gear with you when you go.
- For your first outings, it will be a lot better to pass-by Alwana Climbing Gym at the Marco Hotel beforehand. Ask for the resident strong guy, Carlo Chiong, to get some help on getting around, and for new updates on the local bouldering scene.