The hiking trails of Lubang

PictureThe Verde Island Passage, also called  VIP, is located between Batangas and Mindoro.  Dubbed as the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world,  it is not only rich in marine resources.  It has also been blessed with an island group that is endowed with outstanding natural assets.  The Lubang Island Group or LIG is composed of the municipalities of Lubang and Looc and are nestled on the western tip of the VIP.  In 2010  the  leaders of both towns decided to craft a single roadmap for tourism development. I had the privilege of being given the task of facilitating the planning process and help the island residents articulate for themselves  the type of tourism that will uplift the lives of the people.

PictureBack then, the islanders agreed that hiking in the forests of Lubang is one activity that will be promoted. After all,  LIG has an extensive forest cover that, interestingly, has been preserved due to the presence of a Japanese straggler by the name of Lt. Hiroo Onoda.  He was an Imperial Japanese intelligence officer who was sent to Lubang in December 1944 to bomb Tilik port, but failed. When the Americans and the Philippine Commonwealth forces landed in Lubang in February 1945, Onoda ran into the jungles and stayed there  for 30 years, refusing to believe that the war was over.  He came down from the mountain only upon receiving a direct order from his commanding officer Major Yoshimi Taniguchi in March 1974.

Five years ago, I was part of the team that assessed and mapped  the forest and the caves where Lt. Onoda used to live.  Three Onoda Trail loops were  plotted and designed so that they can  provide hiking experiences to visitors of varying levels of skills. Onoda Trail has emerged as  the primary tourism product of Lubang due to its historical value. Even Japanese tourists have started visiting the island. Trained guides take visitors  to four of several caves in the forest that became Onoda’s refuge.

Another interesting hiking site is Hulagaan which starts off from the beach that is known for its colorful rocks. A visitor rest area has been constructed near the delta of a stream and here hikers are briefed prior to the hike.  An hour walk ends in a wondrous waterfalls with a pool deep enough for a refreshing swim.  The trail weaves through the forest and has railings and stone steps, making it relatively easy for most visitors. Back on the beach hut,  one can laze at a natural “infinity pool” at the stream and get a free pedicure from the tiny fishes that are found there.


The Municipalities  of Lubang and Looc are the only LGUs in the entire MIMAROPA region that have a roadmap for tourism development.  It will not come as a surprise if  one day Lubang becomes the model for community-based sustainable tourism development. Soon, it will implement a cutting-edge concept  that applies the principles of wealth generation for  tourism that I have conceptualised and designed to promote inclusive growth. I call it The Chain of Prosperity.

This article was originally published in Chen Reyes-Mencias’ blog, QuantumLight.
Photos are by Chen Reyes-Mencias