How Red is the Valley

Valencia, Negros Oriental, the Philippines

June 25, 2011

Baffling plumes of smoke were rising from the rocky mountainside by the zigzag highway. It couldn’t have been a swidden; the slope was too steep for crops. The van driver claimed it was sulfur emanating from hairline fissures in the rocks. True enough, a slightly sulfuric scent hung in the air when we stopped for some snapshots.

Solfataras on the Slopes of Mt. Talinis

We had apparently entered a volcanic zone. Though we are originally from this island, my family and I were (blissfully?) unaware of another volcano in Negros other than the more famous and active Mt. Kanlaon. We hadn’t heard of Mt. Talinis until we were at its shadow.

Red Valley, B’gay Malabo, Valencia, Negros Oriental
Clear Waters of Red Valley

Ten kilometers inland from Dumaguete, Valencia has a landscape contoured by the crinkling of the earth’s crust. Rocks and soil in this part of town, aptly called Red Valley, have the color of rust, perhaps owing to minerals disemboweled from the earth by volcanic vents.

Streams with the transparency of glass, unmuddled by siltation during dry months, rush down the mountainside. We walked along one such stream, its water so crystal clear it would’ve been invisible if not for the tiny ripples glistening in the sun.

Rust-Colored Rocks @ Red Valley
SuperMom! Mom of Steel
Pulang Bato Falls, Valencia, Negros Oriental
My Sister Presenting Pulang Bato Falls

Waterfalls may be commonplace in such scraggy terrain, but Pulang Bato Falls occupies a special niche for the terra-cotta wall of rock (pulang bato means red rock) over which water cascades down and fans out in a veil of white. A collage of colors – pristine aqua of a forest lagoon, jungle green, and tawny luster of the riverbed – frames it like a painting.

A tad jaded about overdeveloped small town attractions, I found Pulang Bato Falls surprisingly secluded; the area around it had not been paved and choked by man-made structures. Touristy development was kept at bay at an unintrusive distance where, fingers crossed, it would remain.

In Its Natural Glory: Pulang Bato Falls, Valencia, Negros Oriental
Paved Pathway to Pulang Bato Falls

My mother could not make the trek down the slippery slope strewn with jagged rocks for a closer approach. Left at the viewing platform with the van driver, she threatened to dive down the precipice a la Superman. On the brighter side, she had the pleasure of beholding Pulang Bato Falls in its natural glory.

Sibling High Jinks @ Pulang Bato Falls
Smaller Waterfalls @ Red Valley, Valencia, Negros Oriental

Several smaller waterfalls, preferred by swimmers for their inclined cascades pouring into circular pools, are rendered accessible by paved and wooden trails. In one swimming hole outfitted with its private picnic table, a group of Korean tourists sequestered themselves, perching on boulders and diving from the falls.

Chasing Waterfalls @ Red Valley
Lounging at the Lagoon @ Red Valley

Enchanting cascades aside, the distinct color and undulating terrain of Red Valley reveal that the landscape is still a work in progress by volcanic and tectonic forces.

*****

Less than a year after our short excursion to Red Valley, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocked this side of Negros Island, causing widespread destruction and death. Although tremors are common here, it was the first of such scale in the island, which led to the discovery of a fault line slicing through Negros Oriental. As I have belatedly discovered this volcano in my backyard, there is still so much to learn about my home island, one that is seething red right under our noses.

Big Boulder (Metamorphic, Maybe) @ Red Valley
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6 thoughts on “How Red is the Valley

  1. hi Aj, Dumaguete is one place Bob and i have yet to visit … we have gone to the western side but i am so looking forward to your side of Negros.

    your photos and narrative want me to check out for promos and immediately fly to your hometown asap! thank you for always sharing with us how truly beautiful our islands are 🙂

    your mom is so adorable — April

    1. Hi April! Actually I’m from the Occidental side of Negros. Had never bothered to go to Oriental though. That’s how strong the cultural divide was even in the same island! Now I’m glad I did. I found Oriental to be a charming province.

      Yes, isn’t she the cutest? 🙂

  2. Suddenly i miss dumaguete and its many natural wonders. Ive only been to casaroro falls. Would like to try climbing kanlaon kanlaon next time. Sarap maligo sa falls!

    1. I didn’t even know about Casaroro until after our trip. Fail. 😦 Yup, refreshingly cool water at the smaller falls. But I heard the water in Pulang Bato Falls itself is kinda acidic-tasting. Not confirmed though. Didn’t want to taste it, haha!

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