Saturday, December 12, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015
A shallow portion of the Cansibit Pit




As a kid, I loved star-gazing using my kiddie telescope. I used to be fascinated by distant life forms, something that traveling as an adult somehow satiated. From time to time, though, I still get giddy over news of falling meteorites and the like. When I found out about Negros as an island that's teeming with minerals, I knew I had to cut short my Bacolod immersion and make a side trip to Sipalay City where most of the mining operations in Visayas occurred for roughly four decades.

I've seen the devastation that such activities could do in another province such as Marinduque after a layover in Sta. Cruz where marcopper mining was prevalent. The town, as I remembered it in 2014, still showed a shadow of desolation in its landscape after countless of flash floods and a resulting drought. However, Sipalay seems to be on a brighter path to recovery. Scoping the landscape after a three-hour taxi commute, I knew that this side of the island is headed in the right direction.

Cansibit Pit
Panorama of the pit
The community in the area

Next To Rice Farming, Mining Minerals

I was aboard a tour bus of Sipalay Suites with some of its personnel, plus those of Sipalay City Tourism, one late afternoon to visit Maricalum Mines. It plied the Negros South Road with ease, showing me on both sides of the highway blankets upon blankets of rice fields. I was truly in a different part of the province where sugarcane plantations are next to nothing. The city is obviously big in rice farming, but it's also where three major mining corporations gravitated toward for mineral exploration in the late '50s all the way to the new millennium. This prompted an arm struggle from NPA rebels whose most recent 2013 attack caused damages to the operation of another mining corporation. Maricalum Mining Corporation (MMC), however, has long ceased its operation, including the area it has claim over in the neighboring town of Cauayan.

I had someone tell me last year about a fascinating story of a tektite shower that made impact in Pasig City where I currently reside, but I wasn't even born at the time it happened. I also saw a sample of the same terrestrial debris being sold in Silay City, but it's just a fragment. My visit of Maricalum Mines offered me an up close view of where the minerals are actually mined.

It was where the city's early settlers of tumandoks traditionally farmed the same precious materials for decorations, tools, and trading. After all, small-scale mining had been part of people's lives in early settlements in the country.

The abandoned copper processing factory of Maricalum Mining Corporation
Junkyard of derelict machines

Savanna of A Community

Past the viewing deck that's opened to the public, our tour bus proceeded to pass through the enduring community in the area where MMC used to operate. The route was two kilometers from the highway. Looking like a savanna, the terrain is densely populated. I was told that the presence of massive truck tires tucked behind waist-high grasses is evidence of the site's mining past. I learned that some of the residents in makeshift houses came from the hinterlands and some are relatives of former mining employees. It still displayed the eerie remembrance of an inundated rural village where mining operations used to be in full swing. It's remarkable how the same area used to have a thriving set of facilities that included a hospital, wet market, school and an airstrip.

Massive heavy equipment truck tires
Viewing The Cansibit Pit

Our first stop was a high point in the site where viewing the Cansibit Pit was more breathtaking than experiencing it from the deck that's opened to the public. I was told that this vantage point offered a more expansive view of the pit, a well-defined mass that's now filled with rainwater. From a distance, it looks like a lake or a big lagoon. It's amazing how it was originally man-made but is now looking like a primordial spawn of the elements for being abandoned and left to fend for itself at nature's mercy.

Junkyard of Derelict Robots

Up close, down the edge of the pit, the view is a stark contrast. It's apparent from that point how the area used to be busy with ground-level activities. Dwarfed by massive heavy equipment vehicles and machinery, we stood there in the middle of what appeared to be a junkyard of derelict robots. The mood was a desolation of metal layered with nature enduring in crevices and spare parts. If there was a green garden that's accentuated by magenta, this one exemplified it but with rust.

Young locals of the community on their way home from school

Sipalay Suites and Sipalay City Tourism personnel

Extractive Progress

Back in its heyday when the mining site employed about 5,000 Sipalay City residents, household pockets were full. However, the environment was also badly affected by the effects of the operations. From farmland irrigation to marine life in the coastal areas, the whole city bore the brunt of extractive progress. It came to a point when the locals looked to nature for relevance and realised that necessary measures were needed to be imposed.

Open For Tourism

My visit of Sipalay this 2015 coincided with my target immersion of Bacolod, Silay and Talisay. It might have been just a side trip but I was lured nonetheless.

Going back to my booked room in Sipalay Suites, I segued to my tour mates that it would be great if, in the future, a cable car or zip line ride is installed over Cansibit Pit to cover the massive space for adventure activities. Since the water in the pit is not contaminated, it can serve as a playground for exciting water-based sports. The viewing deck can also be complemented with a rustic cafe or eatery, even an overlooking villa for overnight stays. The possibilities are endless.

As it is, though, this city south of Negros island is teeming with potential tourist spots. It appeared that it's eagerly open for tourism for having unexplored caves and distinct beaches. It can't be more ready than today.

Where to stay in Sipalay City?

Check out my luxurious accommodation at Sipalay Suites here.

Special thanks to Sipalay City Tourism for the tour assistance.

Check out my other Negros Occidental blog posts:

+ Melba's Farm in Talisay City

Sipalay City Beaches -- Sugar Beach, Poblacion Beach and Lat-asan Cove

Hiking In The Woods of Talisay City's Cabatangan

+ Exploring The Maricalum Mines of Sipalay City

The scenery along the Negros South Road


  1. Beautiful story. Beautiful photos! This is one of the best features I've read about the now defunct Maricalum Mines. Thank you for featuring Sipalay.

    1. Thanks. The place if off-center interesting!

  2. Nice blog but sports activities on that place.. men that's a thousand feet below..

    1. Thanks, Jayson. I read in a 1991 document that it was at 250 meters (820 feet) so, yeah, it was roughly a thousand feet below. The target depth for the 11-year pit design was 400 meters.

  3. I remember walking from our house all the way to the Mining Dept.where my father works(3kms i think,x2 since we walk back and forth that makes 6kms) just to bring him lunch together with my mom..i never get tired of the long walks thinking i would climb up in the monster trucks parked during lunch breaks and take a peek in the telescope with the beautiful green scenery and the monster trucks turned toy cars deep down in the open pit..haay, those were good old days worth to reminisce.
    Thank you for this wonderful blog of my hometown.☺

    1. I can just imagine how grand and bustling the area was in those days when you witnessed all the prevailing activities as a child. Welcome and thanks for your kind words.


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