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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ANTIQUE: Legendary Land of Mythical Madia-as


      The province of Antique is oftentimes called the “Binirayan Country” because every year every month of December, Binirayan festival is being celebrated in the capital town of San Jose de Buenavista. This festival is a reenactment of the landing of the ten Bornean datus from Borneo under the leadership of Datu Puti. The first Malayan settlement was established in Panay at a place called Malandog, now called Hamtik, in Antique during the 13th century.
      Mt. Madia-as, the tallest peak in Panay with a peak of 6,945 feet (2,117 meters) can also be found in the province. This mountain acts as a natural boundary and spans the three provinces of Antique, Aklan and Capiz. It is situated west of the serene town of Culasi across the turbulent waters of the Carit-an River. This imposing mountain covered almost 12,000 hectares of dense forest thats more or less one half of Culasi’s total land area.
      Mt. Madia-as is a strange combination of enchanting beauty and unfathomed mystery. One would find it fascinating to watch its summit glow like solid gold at sunset. You would be amazed looking at its 24 waterfalls, several lakes and lagoons, “tinagong dagat (hidden sea)” and vast rice terraces winding around the foot of the mountain. Its forest protectively conceals and shelters the more than 100 species of orchids, the floral aristocracy of the wood lands, various ferns, wild herbs and moss. Added to these are the abundant growth of dwarf fir trees, Benguet pines and other species of flora and fauna. Mt. Madia-as serves as the best sanctuary for wildlife from the pernicious and ruthless hunters and poachers.
      Historically, Madia-as was the seat of the first organized regional political organization – the Confederation of Madyaas – under Datu Sumakwel sometime in the 12th century . In the mythical lore the mountain was called “Orang Madya-as,” an active volcano 2,300 meters high. It is believed to be the legendary home of Bulalakaw, the supreme deity of the early Malayan pagan settlers. It is also considered as the mythical abode of the spirits of our early ancestors such that sacrificial offerings for the “anitos (tribal gods)” were held at its deadly crater to appease the angry forces of nature believed to be caused by these ancient deities.
        The imposing mountain peak pose a thrilling challenge to adventurous mountain climbers. Some people do penance during the Holy Week by scaling the peak.
Scaling Mt. Madia-as is difficult and dangerous. Some of its slopes are steep as 80 to 90 degrees. Its. Steep ravines, damp grounds and moldy rocks can prove treacherous. Besides, one has to climb a gut-wrenching tightrope, walk on a narrow bridge floating on a sea of cloud and clamber up the sharp vertical slopes while holding on to slippery rocks and roots of trees a thousand feet high above could mean certain death. Also, one has to endure a 15-kilometer trek along a stony road leading to a dry river bed, brave the several improvised wooden and bamboo bridges over a boulder-strewn river and hurdle numerous hills before reaching a village at the foot of the mountain where the ascent actually starts. Still many climbers braved the hazards just to conquer the magnificent peak of this legendary mountain.

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