Mountain Ranges, River Systems
and Volcanoes of the Philippines
By Apolinario Villalobos
For the Filipinos, it is important to have a bird’s eye view of their country for better understanding and appreciation. For the foreigners, it is equally important, so that they will have an idea why the Philippines is called, Emerald Isles of the Pacific, Pearl of the Orient Seas, Land of the Rising Sun, etc.
For one thing, the archipelagic country is composed of more than 7,000 islands and islets, depending on the tide. The irregular coastline is about 10,850 statute miles. The Philippine Deep located 40 miles northeast of Mindanao is the deepest ocean depth at 37,782 feet, which is deeper than Marianas Deep which measures 36,640 feet. Volcanic in origin, the total land surface is 114, 830 square miles. The country is divided into main groups such as, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Luzon is the northern chunk of the archipelago with Batanes as its northernmost province. The mountain ranges that dominate the Central Plains are: Caraballo del Sur, with the apex located between Abra, Ilocos Norte, and Cagayan. The Caraballo Occidental is divided into the northern and central, traversing the western area of the Cagayan River. The Sierra Madre which is known in some history books as Pacific Coast Range originates from Baler and covers Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Cagayan, making it the longest range in the Philippines. The eastern and southeastern mountain ranges, meanwhile, starts from Caraballo de Baler to San Bernardino Strait, and ends in Mayon volcano in Albay and Bulusan volcano in Sorsogon, both of the Bicol region in the southern tip of Luzon mainland.
The mountain range that begins at Tagaytay, passes through the rest of the province of Cavite, onward through Batangas, ending in Mt. Makiling. Meanwhile, the Zambales range, begins at Cape Bolinao, running along the China coast up to the Bataan peninsula. On the island of Mindoro, the sierra range starts at Mt. Halcon, forking into three, with the northwest ending at Calavite Point which for centuries has been used as a landmark of mariners that cruise through Manila Bay and Mindoro Strait, the eastern fork from Naujan Lake, and the western fork that follows the Mindoro Strait
The river systems of Luzon are: Rio Grande de Cagayan and its tributaries that flow towards Cagayan Valley: the Agno Grande that flows to Benguet and the valleys of Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, and Tarlac; the Abra River while serving as the catch basin of tributaries from the Cordillera, flows to Lepanto, Bontoc and Abra; and, the Rio Grande de Pampanga and its tributaries that flow towards the valleys of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan.
Other river systems are: Magat River flows across Isabela and Nueva Ecija with tributaries flowing from the Mountain Province to Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, and Tarlac; Laoag River in Ilocos Norte; Abra River in Abra; Tinig River, Amburayan River, and Chico River in Mountain Province; Tarlac River; Angat River in Bulacan; Marikina River and Pasig River in Metro Manila; Pagsanjan River in Laguna; Maragondon River in Cavite; Tayabas River in Quezon; Labo River in Sorsogon; Pitogo River in Occidental Mindoro; Boac and Mogpog rivers in Marinduque; and, the most famous, Underground River in Palawan.
The volcanoes of Luzon are Mt. Iraya in Batanes, Taal in Batangas, Banahaw in Quezon, Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon, and Mayon in Albay. Mt. Mayon has erupted more than 30 times since 1615; Taal, the smallest volcano in the world has erupted about 30 times, as well, with the most destructive in January 30, 1911 which killed more than 1,300 people, and its last eruption occurred in September 3, 1976.
Negros island is partitioned by a mountain range with northwest to southwest orientation with the protrusion of Mt. Kanlaon as the highest, and the rest are: Mt. Razor, Mt. Silay Mandalague, and Mt. Malapantao. Panay Island has a north to south orientation of a mountain range that separates Iloilo, Aklan and Capiz provinces from Antique, and with Mt. Madjaas as the highest peak, with the rest: Mt. Agudo, Mt. Lantuan, Caniapasan, Mt. Malinao, Mt. Nangtud, Mt. Nausang, and Mt. Usigan.
The river systems of Visayas are: Panay River in Pan-ay, Sibalom River in Antique, Suaque River in Iloilo, Bago River in Negros Occidental, Mabanga River in Bohol, Ulut and Catubig rivers in Samar.
The four mountain ranges of Mindanao are: Surigao mountain range that follows the outline of the Pacific coas; Butuan range that serves as the water shed of the Agusan River on the east, and Pulangui river on the west; the Mt. Apo range located in the central and western portion of the island; and the western range, from Iligan Bay up to the shores of Basilan Strait. In Lanao, north of Mt. Iniaoan is Mt. Catmon, while south of Lake Lanao is Mt. Butlig. Separating Cotabato and Lanao are Mt. Maraturang and Ragang volcanoes. Other mountains in Cotabato are Mt. Dinaca, Mt. Bulik, Mt. Magolo and Mt. Matutum. In Bukidnon, the two highest peaks are Mt. Kintanglad west of Malaybalay, and Mt. Kalatungan. Aside from Mt. Apo, another active volcano in Mindanao is Mt. Makaturing in Lanao.
The Rio Grande de Mindanao, fed by the outflows of two lakes, and the largest river system in the Philippines flows to the central plain of Mindanao. The Agusan River which is the second biggest, next to Rio Grande de Mindanao, flows to the basin of Surigao. Other rivers in Mindanao are: Buluan River in Maguindanao, Kapingkong River in Sultan Kudarat, Dansalan River in Cotabato, and Clarin River in Misamis Occidental. Ligwasan marsh occupies a vast tract of area in Cotabato to which some water of the Rio Grande de Mindanao also flows.
Lately, the Philippines has become a favorite mountaineering destination of trekking enthusiasts from other countries, and whose number swelled that of the locals composed of professional bloggers, students and young professionals. Among the most popular are: Mt Iraya in Batanes, Mt. Dos Cuernos in Cagayan, Mt. Pulog in Benguet, Mt. Halcon in Mindoro, Mt. Cristobal and Mt. Banahaw in Quezon, and Mt. Makiling in Laguna; Mt. Madja-as in Antique; Mt. Guiting-guiting in Sibuyan (Romblon); Mt. Manunggal in Cebu; Mt. Kanlaon in Negros; Mt. Apo in Davao, Mt. Hibok-hibok in Camiguin, Mt. Kitanglad in Malaybalay, and Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato. I know that more mountains, though not impressive in height but equally challenging, are just waiting to be explored, aside from what I have mentioned.
It is fascinating to know that outdoor sports bloggers do their share in promoting the sport to boost the tourism industry of the Philippines, by posting their discovered peaks as they trek around the country. Browsers need only to use the tags: “Philippine mountains”, “Philippine mountaineering”, “Philippine trekking”, and “Philippine tourism” to access their sites.