Osmena Peak (1015m) is the highest mountain on Cebu Island, the highest in the province of Cebu, and the highest in Central Visayas (Region VII). So obviously, this is a very important peak for Filipino mountaineers.
Are there really any hikers/mountaineers in the Philippines?
For those who think that the people of Philippines have no interest in mountains whatsoever, I can only disagree and refer to the highly popular website Pinoymountaineer.com. The doctor and mountaineer Gideon Lasco has done a great deal of efforts to explore and document the mountains and trails around the Philippines. It should also be mentioned that Philippines has a number of outdoor brands, and Habagat is probably the most recognized because of good quality at a low price. The latter is important in a country where the average income is a fraction of the western.
From Cebu City to Dalaguete
From our hotel in "uptown" Cebu City, we took a taxi to the South Bus Terminal. From here there are frequent buses (Ceres Liner Company) departing for Dalaguete, Oslob or Bato (every 5 minutes or so). All mentioned routes go through Dalaguete, and the ride takes about 2 hours (110 pesos for A/C bus). We didn't intend to do Osmena Peak as a day trip from Cebu City (although it's possible). Instead, we checked into Ocean Bay Beach Resort in Dalaguete, where we already had reserved a room for 800 pesos a night at booking.com. This is definitely a resort that has seen its better days, but the room rates are good value.
We spent the rest of the day seeing Dalaguete. We also asked the resort to reserve a motorbike (500 pesos/day). Next morning we had an early breakfast, because we had agreed that the motorbike would be ready at 8am. This proved to be a 110 cc engine, and therefore an illegal toy for my part because I don't have a proper motorcycle licence. But in Philippines that hardly matters at all. Unfortunately they didn't provide any helmets for us. We had no worries of being fined here in the province, all we cared about was head injuries.
Motorbike to Mantalongon
I was driving the bike, while Emily sat behind me and was responsible for GPS navigation, to the extent we needed it (see our motorbike route below). It's only a 13 km drive from sea level in Dalaguete and up to Mantalongon at 800 meters elevation. We took grate care because it was raining and the roads were slippery. Thus it took us almost one hour to reach Mantalongon, including a few stops along the way. Emily complained repeatedly on my somewhat lack of motorbike skills, but to drive herself she refused.
In Mantalongon there is actually a small bus terminal with several departures a day between Mantalongon and Cebu City (and vice versa). This is a cheap alternative for those who want to get all the way to Mantalongon by public transport from Cebu City (instead of only to Dalaguete). But note that the buses to/from Mantalongon are small, crowded and very uncomfortable compared to the buses between Cebu and Dalaguete. Besides, the Mantalongon buses depart only from Carbon Market, a highly criminal and poor area of Cebu City, and tourists are thus advised to stay away from this market. Therefore, the Mantalongon bus is really not an alternative for travelers who prioritize safety and a certain level of comfort.
Hiking to Osmena Peak
In Mantalongon we found out that it was possible to drive an additional 2-3 kilometers with our motorbike, thus we finally had only 1 km left on foot to reach the top of the Osmena Peak. But it was fairly difficult to drive the steep and rocky road with two people on the bike, so Emily had to get off the bike a couple of times. We parked the bike opposite a basketball court, and four young boys immediately came over to us. We thought about hiring one of them to watch after our bike. We did not, however, need a local guide as we had downloaded a GPS-track to follow. Still we ended up hiring one of them as guide anyway, just to give our share of support to a poor mountain community. The two boys we hired were 15 years old and twin brothers. We offered them 100 pesos each. While one of the twins waited next to our bike, the other led us to the summit of Osmena Peak. The trail was wet and slippery, so we moved slowly, and arrived at the summit after 30 minutes. There was zero visibility from the top but, as we waited there for a while, eventually came the fantastic views we had seen on various websites. Around us revealed a scenic terrain with many small pyramid-like peaks.
After half an hour on the summit, we continued down again. The other twin brother sat dutifully beside our motorbike, waiting for us. We paid the two twin brothers as agreed, and gave them an additional 50 pesos each in tips to be extra nice. Then we jumped on the bike and drove back to Dalaguete. Fortunately, the raining had stopped, and the roads were beginning to dry up, thus the steep downhill roads were not as slippery as we had feared. We arrived back at Dalaguete around lunch time and bought a grandiose German meal of schnitzel and mashed potatoes at the restaurant in Ocean Bay Beach Resort to celebrate our small feat :-)
1 USD = 44 Philippine Pesos (PHP)(Dec 2011)
Motorbike drive to Osmena Peak at EveryTrail
Osmena Peak at EveryTrail