Sirao Garden. Not the Secret Garden, but the Trending Garden. My facebook feed was a ticker tape of celosia flowers four months ago. And a week ago, I finally gave in and jumped on the bandwagon...thinking that this time the furor would have died down. It might have died down a bit just because the celosia flowers this time of year are just on their baby stages. Or maybe I was just there really early when everyone else was still at their dining tables having breakfast.
Sirao Garden was a pretty sight: white picket fence and bright colored flowers on the foreground (just ignore the tacky hearts and windmill), and green mountains, blue skies, and fluffy clouds on the background. It would have been prettier in October, when I could hide behind the celosia flowers with just my head floating above the colors (thus marring the beautiful scenery). But then I bet it would have been an ugly sight elbowing my way through the crowd.
Daisies, Celosias, Cockscombs, Sunflowers...
Pretend the tacky windmill is not there
Through the Back Door
After stopping to smell the flowers in Sirao Garden, my band of flower–sniffing brothers and I hiked along the concrete road to find the foot path to the back door of Sirao Peak (which was really our main destination). I have become a lazy little hiker that I now choose to hike through the back door—the shorter the hike, the better. My current hiking policy is "No back door, no hike." (Back in 2012, I made the long trek from Talamban to Sirao.)
We found the proverbial back door and could see the peak but was stumped where to go. The wide open space must have carried our debating (and obviously lost) voices down to the farmer who shouted to us to find the biggest tree. We spotted the biggest tree and tramped our way there only to be stopped by a glaring guard dog cow.
There's our goal, but where's the biggest tree? (Biggest tree not in photo.)
"You shall not pass!" mooed to cow.
One of us figured out how to appease the cow and we were let through. Once through, it was easy–peasy in that the path to the peak was clear cut. But not so easy–peasy in that our lazy bones and mushy leg muscles were subjected to half an hour of slightly steep and slightly slippery ascent with thorny plants scratching on all sides and thin branches slapping us as though the mountain wouldn't let us through.
The view from Sirao Peak
We made it to the peak (with some scratches here and there) and were rewarded with a view of the mountains and, beyond that, the metropolis. This time we stopped, not to smell the flowers (there weren't any), but to gulp lungfuls of fresh air.
How to get to Sirao:
Take a habalhabal (Joel 0932 653 4957) from Lahug Market (not JY Square) to Sirao Garden (if you're just going to Sirao Peak, it is just 500 meters before Sirao Garden). The ride should cost Php 60 to 75 per person per way. Do not give in when they ask for more for "waiting time"—there are available motorcycles outside Sirao Garden. Remember: Find a habalhabal at Lahug Market not JY Square because habalhabal drivers in JY Square usually charge a bit more (Php 200 roundtrip) and will charge for "waiting time."
If you're a group of five or more and with luck on your side (like us!), you might find a jeepney from JY Square in Lahug that would be willing to take you to Sirao Garden for Php 50 per person. Just make sure to ask before you hop on because most jeepneys from JY Square end their route at Plaza Housing or at Mountain View, at best—both still too far from Sirao.
Do not tire yourself out, else you get cranky.
Have proper sleep before a long day of wandering.
Do not let yourself go too hungry, else you get hangry (hungry+angry).
Have some snacks handy; food is fuel for the body.
If you get too tired and too hungry and transform into the evil travel buddy, pray your travel companions have the patience the length of the Great Wall of China, else they dump you in the middle of nowhere.