To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace.”
-Terry Tempest Williams
Wilderness. This is Lake Aguingay’s main draw I realized upon setting foot on her ground.
The force of nature is more elemental here. Wind equals ‘sandstorm’. Howling winds that swirl endlessly. Fog that kiss the ground were just few that we witnessed. She did not even let the others pitch their tents that night. She was in a foul mood. The ‘habagat’ made her so.
These however did not dampen my curiosity that lasted the whole time that I was there. I mentally took notes (below) knowing that time was of utmost importance considering that this place is not as easily accessible compared to Bulusan Lake.
There is something exciting and mysterious about the periphery of Lake Aguingay’s grassland savanna merging with Mt. Bulusan’s rainforest. It is a marriage of two ecosystems where the only law is nature’s law. It is one of nature’s most dynamic areas in the vicinity of BVNP (Bulusan Volcano Natural Park).
It is in this area of the park where vegetations shift abruptly and the most adventurous flora crawl to test each other’s world and persist to push to a territory so much unlike their own.
These were my initial observations during my August 19-20, 2013 personal visit to Lake Aguingay. How I managed to wade through the thick rainforest of Mt. Bulusan before reaching this beauty was a feat in itself. Hours and hours (it seemed to me) of hike-stop-trek-stop-climb which I did not expect to be that physically straining made a beating to my not-physically trained body for such an arduous trek…rather climb. Nonetheless, the diverse view of the lush rainforest along the trail was enough to strengthen my resolve to keep on going. I was told that if I go slower the dusk will catch us up in the dense forest. The hike lasted half day. The thought however that I will be safe with two porters/guides with me made me more confident. These are the guys that are trained ready to assist trekkers/climbers like me along the way.
Before I proceed with my in-situ observations, let me first introduce again Lake Aguingay:
“There are two lakes in the volcano area namely Lake Bulusan and Lake Aguingay. Lake Bulusan is located at the southeastern side of the volcano at 335 m above sea level. It has a circumference of about 2000 m, depth of 33 m and an area of 165 hectares. Lake Aguingay is situated between the trough of Mt.
Bulusan and Sharp Peak at 940 m above sea level.” (source: Phivolc’s Bulusan Volcano Profile)
In other words, Aguingay Lake is nestled higher in the mountain than her famous sister lake, Bulusan Lake. It is here where mountaineers establish base camp before the final climb to the peak of Bulusan Volcano. It is here where I stayed for a day and one night to commune with the flora of Mount Bulusan.
I previously thought that Lake Aguingay is purely grassland but up-close shows otherwise. Crawling bamboo, pandan and some interesting shrubs and bushes co-exist with the dominant grasses .
At one end of the lake’s shoreline the grasses seemed to converge according to its kind – tall, taller, tallest. It is an ecosystem on its own. Lake Aguingay mesmerizes and enchants in both areas i.e. dry land and wet land. It is a place that is meant to be savored slowly – every nook and cranny examined because there is always a surprise for anyone who would take the time to know her.
The ground changes too from beach-like sand to pebbles to muddy clay to swamp and to a real lake with water. All of these with their own kind of vegetation. Interestingly, hoof markings of wild boars can be seen in the sand and the muddy soil of the lake near the water side indicating that this lake provides ecosystem services to several wildlife in the area.
Admittedly, I have only seen a small facet of the world of Mt. Bulusan and its volcanic landscape that includes Aguingay Lake. It needs more than one lifetime to discover its entire wonder and beauty that include the rich biodiversity of flora and fauna living in a multifaceted habitat. I can only marvel in its awesomeness and sang a song of praise to its creator.
My serendipity moment during my Aguingay trek was the moment when I caught sight of a white beauty, the flower of Palali – a katmon relative growing lushly at the fringes of Lake Aguingay. It was in full bloom and the answer as to why there were immaculate white petals strewn along the mountain trail. It was as if a welcoming stage was set for my visit to the bosom of her home mountain – Mt. Bulusan.
Lake Aguingay and Palali flower are reclusive beauties that surpassed my expectations of what to see during my recent mountain trek.
Note: The complete flora photos during my Lake Aguingay trek (August 19-20, 2013) can be viewed at CDFP – Co’s Digital Flora of the Philippines’ face book page. Also, some selected Mt. Bulusan’s flora from this trek are available for viewing at PhytoImages http://www.phytoimages.siu.edu/ . The Palali flower (photo) is the first specimen photo in the gallery exhibiting a pure white ‘katmon’ feature.
Photos: Alma P. Gamil
August 19-20, 2013, BVNP, Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines
Added note: With special thanks to the world-class mountaineering crew of AGAP-Bulusan, Inc. for the excellent service from food to assistance in the actual climb, base camp accommodations and so much more during the trek. For the information of interested mountaineers, I availed of the mountaineering package of AGAP-Bulusan with four other mountaineers, 1 Swiss, 1 half-Filipino/Swiss, 2 non-local Filipinos, (please see the picture below), for me to be able to focus more on my photo trek. Definitely a second, third and more Mt. Bulusan photo treks will be on my agenda in the months to come. Big thanks to Greg, Fritz, Ariel, Nilo and the rest of the staff at AGAP-Bulusan!
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