Since I haven’t explored the country side of Iloilo, last weekend me and my boyfriend decided to go hiking. After reading so many great suggestions from you guys at the comment section of my previous article about Iloilo City, we decided to head for Bucari, Leon. And the ones who suggested it, you were right – it is a gorgeous area!
Bucari area is a mountainous region situated in the highlands of Leon and Alimodian, municipalities of Iloilo province in Panay island. It is composed of Bucari barangay (village) and its neighbouring barangays: 14 barangays located in Leon and 7 barangays located in Alimodian. Bucari area is situated in the west-southwest part of the province of Iloilo, 58 km from the Iloilo City. It is an eco-tourist zone, known for the cool climate (the temperature there ranges from 18- 20°C), beautiful landscapes with magnificent mountains, lush green rice terraces and pine forests, as well as the refreshing springs and falls.
Some of the highlights of the area are Masiga Cave, Tambionan Reforestation Area, Susong Dalaga or Ambassador Hill and Imoy Falls. Regarding agriculture there are many fruits and vegetables grown in the are including bananas, mangoes, cabbages, carrots, eggplants, strawberries, asparagus, sayote (chayote), baguio beans etc.
Since there are so many mountains and forests in Bucari, this area is ideal for hiking, trekking, camping, mountain climbing and mountain bike riding. This time our choice was hiking. We went there by rented car. It took as about and hour to get to Leon from Ilioilo City. We didn’t spend much time in the town as we were hurrying to Bucari, though we stopped to admire Leon Church, built in 1869, one of the biggest stone structures in Panay island at that time. It is situated in a nice, well maintained area with a small, charming plaza.
After asking around and finding out the directions from locals, we got to the rocky road part heading up to Bucari. Unfortunately, even though we did say to the car rental company, that we would be going to the mountains in Bucari, they gave us an unsuited car for the circumstances. It was low; and since the road was very bumpy with lots of rocks, we could only go with a speed 10 km per hour as we didn’t want to break the car. After about a half an hour of extremely slow driving, we decided to leave the car and go there on foot. And the hiking could start, even though sooner that we had expected. Walking in fresh air, beautiful views along the road and nice, kind people with genuine smiles on our way, what more can we ask for?
After about an hour of walking, we found a pilgrimage site with 14 Stations of the Cross, so we decided to give it a try and climb up. I’m so glad we did it! If you happen to ever be hiking in Bucari, Leon, don’t hesitate a bit and climb up those steps. The view from up there is breathtaking! The climb is not too long, it takes about 10-15 minutes to climb there, but since it is quite steep, you will feel like a winner after climbing up, and the award is pretty damn good – the stunning view of the mountains.
After climbing down we decided to go to Pineridge Bucari, a resort located in Bacolod village, to get some lunch. Unfortunately there are no directions along the way, that would help to find this place. Luckily for us, we met some kind locals on our way who told us how to get there. Even though the majority didn’t know the place, we were lucky that some of them new where it was. I also tried to reach the resort by calling several times during the day to the contact numbers I found on the website but, even though they had answered the day before telling that they will be waiting for us, nobody answered on the day of our trip. Regardless of the fact that we couldn’t reach them by phone, we still went there hoping we could get something to eat at the restaurant. After about 25 minutes of walking from the pilgrimage site we reached the crossroads, where some of the locals told us to go to the right in order to reach Pineridge Bucari.
The area around Pineridge Bucari Resort is very peaceful and undamaged with gorgeous mountain and forest views, perfect for a relaxing resort. Unfortunately the staff wasn’t aware of us coming, even though I had been contacted the resort the day before and got an answer that they would expect us the following day. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong, and who was on the phone the day before, but it appeared that they didn’t know about us coming at all.
The initial goal was to go hiking in the are around the resort, without eating there or staying overnight. That’s why during the phone call with the contact person from the resort I had only asked about the hiking services and directions and didn’t make any lunch reservations. I had mistakenly made an assumption that the restaurant will be open during the day in case we wanted to eat there. I hadn’t imagined that the place would be so quiet and serene. It appeared that they didn’t have any food to offer and the only thing we could do there is drink some coffee and admire the view, which we did.
They somehow found some food to cook for us after all, and the meal was very delicious. The staff is really friendly and kind and they tried their best by cooking the meal for us, even though they weren’t expecting us and weren’t prepared for it. We were very happy and grateful for that.
If you’re interested to visit this place, I highly recommend you to make all the reservations at least 3 days in advance as stated on the website of the resort. Apparently that applies even to lunch or dinner reservations. I would also advise you to make sure that they are waiting for you by calling them a few more times before you go there. It appears that they are not keeping the place open and prepared for guests all the time, since it is so serene.
Even though we had ate at the resort and paid for the lunch, we still had to pay the 150 PHP (3.40 $) for lounging on the terrace, where the meal was served, and enjoying the view from it. That was somewhat disappointing. Perhaps more people would be willing to go there to have a nice lunch or dinner if they wouldn’t have to pay extra for the view. The good side is, coffee is included. But what if you aren’t a coffee lover? The view is really gorgeous from there, but so it is all around Bucari. That makes me thinking: why not enjoy it for free while having a nice picnic outside? If you’re choosing this option, just remember to do it outside the Pine Forest and two waterfall sites, since according to the resort website you will be charged with an extra 1000 PHP for picnics there.
While the view is beautiful, people are very friendly and kind and food is delicious at Pineridge Bucari, the “view pass” for enjoying the beautiful landscape from the terrace as a free bonus for the meal at the restaurant would make this place even more tempting for a day trip hikers like us.
We didn’t even considered more hiking after the lunch , since we were too tired and we have had enough activities for the day, so we went back to the car, which was again a great hiking for itself.
- Small villages in Bucari area, including Bacolod, Bucari and others are definitely worth visiting if you are a nature lover and would like to spend a day hiking, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the views.
- If you go there by car, make sure to get an adequate car for quite steep, rocky mountain road. Double check: ask the agency for adequate car and do not hesitate to emphasize it more times during the conversation, if you rent a car for going there.
- Make all the reservations, including lunch/dinner and hiking reservations at least 3 days before going, if you consider visiting the Pineridge Bucari resort. Again double check: call several times before going to assure that they are expecting you.
Despite some of the unforeseen circumstances, we enjoyed our day of hiking in Bucari, Leon and exploring the beautiful countryside of Iloilo with its stunning scenery, kind and hospitable people and many places for hiking and mountain biking: a lot of potential for increasing tourism after fixing the roads.