Saturday, April 6, 2013


This article is also featured at iSTORYA.NET.

THE WHOLE PHILIPPINE mountaineering community had been in a state of agitation lately ever since the news of the planned construction of more than 16,000 trail steps that will be undertaken by the City of Kidapawan leading to the summit of Mount Apo was hatched. The main purpose of the project is to facilitate tourism in the area; to discourage the establishment of new and unsanctioned trails; strengthen conservation and preservation; bring economic gain in the local tourism industry; and position Kidapawan as a major tourism hub in the entire Central Mindanao. It was presented to the Kidapawan City Tourism Council and to the media recently by the city government’s Investment and Tourism Promotions Office and would cost P2.5 million. 

An advocacy movement in the Internet opposing this project was immediately started by mountaineers belonging to the Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao, led by Art Daniel Bacus, when it discovered that the whole idea is morally wrong and so found support from their brethren in Luzon and in the Visayas. Aside from mountaineers, environmental advocates and citizens with right frames of mind joined in this fray with which a signature campaign now found its way among the malls and public places.

A parallel fund-raising drive was started in Davao City to provide the needed monetary resource for an information drive to counter this planned desecration of the country’s highest point. For info, Mt. Apo is sacred land to the indigenous Bagobo, Matigsalug, Talaandig and Manobo peoples which all referred the peak as Apo Sandawa. Lake Venado and the forests along the enclaves of the Mt. Apo National Park are traditional hunting grounds for these tribal peoples and no local government entity should have dominion on ancestral lands claimed by these people. Besides that, Mt. Apo is a protected area and no structural development should be undertaken which would violate the law proclaiming it as a national park and, as it is, may destroy the natural essence of the mountain.

Here in Cebu, our very own outdoors community start its very peaceful protest action at the IT Park last March 23, 2013 at 8:00 PM. It coincided with an Earth Hour program but separate and produce its own distinct crowd. All wore black T-shirts with the print “No Stairway to Mt. Apo” to show disapproval and displeasure about that planned stairway construction. Organizing this event are Chad Bacolod of the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, couple Randell and Marjorie Savior of Tribu Dumagsa Mountaineers, Bonny Ann Gicale of the Outdoorsman’s Hub and Leo Linog of Star FM. This writer came to observe and document that activity. Ultimately, I affixed my signature opposing this project for a good reason.

On this same ground, this writer started a thread about this entitledMt. Apo Crisis in the Politics and Current Events Section last March 26, 2013 to find consensus among members of the online Cebuano community. As of this writing, the majority of comments had already been posted opposing this folly of an idea with only one in favor. It is an opinion poll which, altogether, represents the macrocosm of the sentiment of the Cebuanos. You don’t need to be a mountaineer or be an environmentalist to distinguish which ideas are commendable for Mt. Apo and which are not despite the rosy picture given by the adherents of this Hagdan Ni Apo project.

Nineteen years ago to this day (April 2, 1994), I stood on the crown of Mt. Apo. It was then a crowning moment for myself as a local mountain climber and, at the same time, a nadir of my being one. While I exult in my physical prowess and my success, I could not help it that I was an unwilling participant in one of the ugliest scenes of a mass climbing activity in history. There were no stairs yet so many people negotiated the rough and ascending terrain on their own resolve and power and, in the process, leaving so many garbage along the trail and on the campsite. Worse, tree branches were indiscriminately cut to adorn and corral campsites while stunted trees near the summit were uprooted by bonsai dealers and traditional healers and I could do nothing. I did write about this incident in 2008 to summarize my views, my experiences and my dismays and release a long-overdue frustration.

I would suggest that Mt. Apo be left as it is and access should be regulated strictly and no more than fifteen people should be allowed to use the park in a single day or through the duration of their stay. Mass-climbing activities should not be allowed and park usage fee should be increased. The national government should allocate more funding to oversee Mt. Apo and deputize able-bodied tribesmen as park wardens. Mt. Apo should not be used as a cash cow to enrich the coffers of a certain local government unit. For your info, there are many such LGUs sharing municipal boundaries there. Instead, what money comes through park use should directly go to the park administrators and distribute a considerable percentage of these to the tribal councils in any form or scheme. Environmental signage should be installed along the trailhead, watering stops and campsites to remind people to be a responsible park visitor.

You don’t need a stair to climb a mountain. If you are fit you could do it. If you are not, then discipline yourself to be fit and climb your mountain else do not climb at all. Don’t change the mountain to accommodate you. Let the mountain change your mindset. Better still, know the mountain better instead of just climbing it.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nindot nga article sir, salamat sa pag share :)