Behold the nature-sculpted mountains of La Palmera,Sultan Kudarat

Scarlet Letter author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “Mountains are Earth’s undecaying monuments.”

As proven by my travel recollections, images of the highlands usually conjure an impression of pristine time and wonder. It’s as though the mountains were the first to rise from the sea as the Earth gradually transformed into a habitable world.

When someone asks whether I’m a beach or a mountain person, I’d imagine myself pushed into exhaustion hiking a mountain before answering with “I’m a beach person now.” That answer is cliché and inaccurate since, when I take away the climbing part, I remain a mountain person at heart forever in awe of its craggy shapes and verdant vegetation.

I’ve seen my fair share of spellbinding mountain ranges. From the picturesque peaks I’ve hiked in my youth, to the rice terraces of the Cordillera, to the barren slopes of Mount Sinai, the snowcapped tips in Sapa, the seemingly endless summits of the Sierra Madre Mountain range, and a lot more here and there, I’ve come to fully embrace the idea that mountains are indeed our planet’s lasting headstones.

Nature’s work of art.

Sultan Kudarat’s carved monument

God’s broad strokes and steady hands are in bold display in the landlocked town of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat. Tucked away deep in this area of Central Mindanao lies a stunning landscape of undulating peaks and verdant valleys.

If Frederic Edwin Church’s painting, The Heart of the Andes, provided art connoisseurs with an all-encompassing portrayal of the landscape around a mountain range, La Palmera gifts visitors with a surreal glimpse of a sculpted, corporeal representation of nature.

AASENSO, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

The B’laans, an indigenous group of people from Southern Mindanao, used to tend a plantation at the location now known as La Palmera, now covered in a sea of swaying cogon grass.

Coming from an earlier trip to Pangadilan Falls located in the same municipality of Columbia, we headed straight to La Palmera as we continued our SOCCSKSARGEN (a region that includes the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) exploration.

After bouncing around on the back of a pick-up truck for what felt like an hour over a long stretch of dirt road, we arrived, met by a group of B’laan men and women waiting to welcome us with a cultural dance and musical performance.

Members of B’laan community performing a traditional dance.

The B’laan community has benefited from the veer of tourists that had begun to visit this emerging tourist destination in Sultan Kudarat. From cultural performances to making native delicacies, to transporting tourists on “skylab” tricycles, tourism activities has helped the municipality’s economy grow.

“I wish I could stay here even for a night,” I thought to myself as I set out on a long trail that led to a few forks leading down to the other mountains. There appeared to be numerous paths to choose and explore. Because we only had an afternoon here, I took advantage of the opportunity to fly my drone camera and capture a view of the mountain ridges from above.

Landing my drone and packing it inside my backpack, I hurriedly ran up and down the trail for one last time, savoring the strong winds as it brushed against my face. Stopping to catch my breath, I paused to admire the surrounding scenery. I promised myself at least a couple of nights next time I traveled to the Soccsksargen region.

The way Mother Nature had fashioned yet another masterpiece in the form of the La Palmera Mountain ridges, it certainly validates the notion that mountains are, indeed, “Earth’s undecaying monuments.”