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Bucari Leon, Iloilo #bucarisweat
#1
So I have decided to have an unexpected trip and escape the noise awhile from the city. My very first time hammock camping in the woods. I am on a mission to learn how to sway myself to sleep in the wild. New experience out there in nature, swinging between two trees. #hammockvirgin

I suppose not too many tourists know about Bucari as a potential top travel destination in Visayas. Bucari, one of the barangays/sitios (subvillages) in the municipality of Leon, Iloilo had been making some “noise” within several travelers’ groups in social media and in almost anywhere. Because this town is not very far from the city I live in, and I was invited travelling here with a local friend. In fact, this is my first time here. Locals of Iloilo were the usual guests of this amazing landscape. The thing I loved about going here is the fact that it was an ease to go to. Transportation options were readily available and roads were generally fine except for some bumpy parts. 

Tagged as the “little Baguio of Panay.” It capitalizes on the farming industry and boasts of a refreshing view for outdoor adventurers. Situated high on the mountains, Bucari is the best area to be one with nature and lounge under rich pine vegetation which serves as your living room. During dry season, the temperature could drop to as low as 15 degrees or even lower during wet season. This makes Bucari the summer capital and perhaps the most beautiful highland in Panay.

How to get there?

If you are from the airport, ship/ferry terminal or from city, you may ask a cab driver to take you to Jaro Big Market located just at the back of the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral. Once there, ask around for the jeepneys or vans en route to Leon, Iloilo. Travel time from Jaro to Leon is more or less an hour.

When you arrive at Leon municipal plaza, look for tricycles that will take you the terminal of jeepneys bound for Bucari.
By jeepney: It should be noted that the trip schedule of jeepneys going to and from Bucari is not fixed, depending on the weather and road conditions. But in regular days, the first jeepney from Bucari going to the town leaves at 7 in the morning and it will go back to Bucari at around 2 in the afternoon. This means that if you want to take a jeepney (fare is 50 pesos per way), you must know beforehand the exact time the next trip going to and from Bucari leaves.

If you are more adventurous, consider positioning yourself on top of the roof of the jeepney with other locals and tourists to see a 360-degree view of the mountains. I will put myself on top of the roof of the jeepney on my next trip here again.  :) 

By motorbike: Taking a motorbike is a fast and more convenient alternative. We actually took a motorbike going to Bucari and a motorbike coming back to the town the next day. Motorbike fare is 150 pesos per person, per way.

No matter what transportation you choose to take, you can be sure that you will not get lost going to and from Bucari. Jeepney and motorbike drivers are very friendly and could be your instant tour guides when you try to strike a conversation with them.

You’ll know when you are getting close to the campsite when the air starts to smell of fresh pine and dew, the wind that blows on your face gets colder and colder, and the canopy of pine trees grow thicker and thicker. So don’t miss taking them all in and take a long breath of fresh air and forget all your worries.

What to see and do in Bucari?



The best thing Bucari provides (at least for us) is a cooler environment, which is something to relish on when you are living in a humid city most of the year. Other activities include, but not limited to:

Tabionan Reforestation Area. 
This is the main camping site area where 30 to 50-year old pine trees grow in more than 5,000 hectares of government-protected land. Go back to simple, rural living by pitching a makeshift canvas or plastic tent to protect your body from cold and stray animals, preparing your food using traditional stove and utensils, drinking water from a cold spring, and wandering in mosquito-infested environs, especially during the night. But doing these things will remind you of the fact that human beings only need quite a few essential things to survive. Forget about cellphone signal and internet because they are non-existent here (good or bad thing, you decide).

Mansiga Viewing Deck. 
I had my alarm set at 5am. Make my way up the mountain to catch the sunrise at the Mansiga Viewing Deck. I will never get tired of chasing two significant events in my lives; SUNRISE and SUNSETS! It was a challenging trek. Though the trail was established, it was an uphill climb and you should prepare your happy feet for some battle. I got really exhausted but a few steps from the summit, ****.. I am catching up with age.  I can’t help but marvel at the beauty of the place. The gradient of the skyline was like no other. The shadows and play of light from the sun was like a pot of gold.

After an almost an hour of uphill climb with sweat dripping all over your body, a panoramic view of the mountain ranges of Alimodian and Leon, Iloilo will welcome you and make you forget your quench for water and the nagging pain of sore feet. There is also a fallen log that offers a more scenic view of the surrounding. You can take a photo walking the log. Sunrise moment was so surreal. I’d have to say it was the BEST SUNRISE I have seen in all of my travels yet. The colors boasted of gold, orange and yellows! The sun lit up the entire pine tree plantation and the rice terraces down town. One could really be thankful to be alive after being in that moment. I was. A panorama shot of the panoramic view you’ll see at Mansiga View Deck. Worth all your sweat, I swear! I have one of my photo capturing both The Sun & The Moon sharing the sky. 

Puting Bato (White Cliff Rock)

Another spot that you can go to and get amazing pictures is the Puting Bato (White Rock), which is a protruding rock formation that some tourists say resembles Pico de Loro in Batangas. Important note: Exercise caution when taking selfies or pictures on the rocks. You might slip, hurt any part of your body, or God forbid, fall into the crevasse.

Imoy Falls. 
I have to tell you that trekking down the way going to Imoy Falls can be an ordeal. Together with a friend of mine, we walked at least two hours with plenty of rests along the way. We got lost but managed to get back on track with help from a little kid. But when you finally reach a series of waterfalls that culminates at Imoy Falls, you will instantly forget all the hardships of your journey. Psst, further upstream there is another secret fall. 

Farm Terraces & Bucari rice terraces. 
On the way to Imoy falls, you will walk along the beaten path and enjoy a 360-degree view of Alimodian-Leon boundary. Say hello to the local farmers tending their rich and lush rice field grown with other variety of high-value crops. Walking along a well-trodden path with a lush vegetation alongside is awe-inspiring. This view on the way to Imoy Falls can literally take your breath away! 

Bonfire. 

One of the highlights of our stay in Tabionan camp site is the lighting of bonfire. For a fee of 100 pesos, you can request a pile of logs from the camp site staff that you can use for your bonfire. For us, however, we joined our camp neighbours where they decided to gather woods by themselves and make their own bonfire. We was offered dinner together, talked, take photos and laughed. During the wee hours of the morning, it is **** cooling, maybe because I am sleeping on hammock, nevertheless, I suggest that you bring your jacket. 

How much you’ll spend?

I didn't set any budget when visiting Bucari because there are several options that you can choose from when it comes to transportation, place to stay, and food allowance. How much you’ll spend will depend on the choices that you’ll make. One thing for sure is that you’ll spend less. 


Expenses: 


Pine Forest Environmental Fee: 60php (2 persons) 
Tent Fee: 100php if you bring your own tent and overnight 
Tent rental (good for 4): 300php
Note: We bring our own hammock, so we paid only the Environmental Fee  

Overnight cottage (6-8 persons): 1,200php
Van/Jeepney from Iloilo to Leon: 60php (two ways)
Habal-habal from Leon to Bucari (per person/trip): 150php 

Transportation:


From Manila: You can take a domestic flight to Iloilo. 
Note: Get Cash Back when you book your flight HERE 

From Iloilo City: You can either take a jeepney or van going to Leon. From Jaro, Iloilo, ride a jeepney/van marked with “Leon” going to Leon Town Plaza. Once at the plaza, ride a tricycle and ask to be dropped off at the jeepney station bound for Bucari. Schedule of jeeney trips are hourly starting at 7:00am to 3:00pm. It will take about 1 hour or more to reach Bucari. Schedules may vary.

However, we opted to take a habal-habal ride going to Bucari from Leon Plaza. It was more adventurous and faster but more costly. 

Accommodation:

-If you choose the campsite, you need to pay 100 pesos for overnight stay if you have your own tent.
-If you decide to rent a tent from the campsite, rental fee varies depending on the size of the tent (from 300 to 500 pesos per night which can accommodate 8 to 10 persons).
-There is also an exclusive spa resort close to the campsite, Pineridge Bucari which offers wellness and mountain exploration activities. I’ve never been to it, but I heard that you need to book the place months before the day of your visit.


Shower:

Took turns taking showers at natural water outlets. Expect to get crazy taking showers there at night; the water was cold and numbing but am loving it. Bring your own towel and shampoo. 

Food:


-There are “carinderias” or native restaurants at the entrance of the campsite that serve native dishes.
-If you’re on a budget, bring your own food and cook at the communal, traditional kitchen for a minimal corkage fee.
-You may also request to have your food cooked by their staff for a fee.

Note: My dinner and breakfast is all taken care by my camp neighbours. :) Lucky me. 

Other expenses:


-Donation is up to you - voluntary basis. 
-Environmental fee at Imoy Falls is 30 pesos per person.
-If you want to take a motorbike instead of trekking to and from Imoy Falls, fare is 150 pesos per person, per way.
-There are organic and fresh produce sold at the entrance of the campsite for cheap prices. You might want to buy some of the local farmers’ fruits of their hard labor such as carrots, cabbage, broccoli, radish, sayote (chayote squash), among others.

All these things taken together validate Bucari’s now ubiquitous title: The Summer Capital of Iloilo. It’s the best place in Iloilo to retreat into the mountains for a while, experience the simplicity of rural living, and explore places that inspire owe and wonder. 

For photos and to follow more of my adventures on my
 INSTAGRAM 
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