A visit to Mt Apo, experiencing a world within a world
The beauty of this mountain and the fulfillment that awaits adventurous souls who climb it should be experienced by every Filipino. It's our moral obligation to protect it for future generations
Mt. Apo's reflection is seen in a portion of Lake Venado. The country's highest lake sprawls at the foot of the country's highest mountain. Photo by Louie Lapat
I was in a bus when I chanced upon a giant tarpaulin hanging inside the usually crowded Ecoland Terminal in Davao City yesterday. It’s a promotional material for “Davao: Life is Here” series used by the city government. Set against a setting sun, the peak of Mt. Apo offers a picture of serenity even via printed material. Imposing text completes the ad: “Mother Nature’s tallest grandchild: the Apo.”
For us in Davao region, this could have been an ordinary sight but the news about a forest fire in two sides of Mt. Apo that broke out last Black Saturday is an incident that warrants one’s attention. Soon after, photos of the fire (those legitimate ones) circulated like wildfire on social media, eliciting worry among the worshippers of Mt. Apo’s charm.
Three years ago, I scaled Mt. Apo – considered to be the Grandfather of Philippine Mountains. The circulated photo online is a stark contrast to what I saw years ago and led the whole nation to worry about our national treasure.
Thick foliage of century-old trees are abound at the foot of Mt. Apo. Photo by Leo Timogan
Declared as a national park in the '30s by President Manuel Quezon, it covers 54,974 hectares and buffer zones comprising of 2,571 hectares and 6,506 hectares on the Davao and Cotabato sides, respectively.
From Davao, Mt. Apo is a picture of a grand mountain, setting a mysterious silhouette during early morning or in late afternoon during sunset. But as they say, the beauty of the mountain can only truly be appreciated up close.
In climbing Mt. Apo, we chose the Bongolanon trail in Magpet town in North Cotabato –which means we have 3 days to spend before finally reaching the peak. Spending days on the trail means spending more quality time in the deep woods of Mt. Apo’s forests.
The rainforest of Mt. Apo offers climbers a rewarding experience. Photo by Louie Lapat
On the trail, one can see the rawness of things, with landscapes changing in every shift in altitude.
With cool temperature, climbers are treated to pleasant surprises coming in the form of exquisite flora and fauna.
Seeds of palm trees in the forest of Mt. Apo. Photo by Louie Lapat
If you’re lucky enough, one can see a Philippine monkey-eating eagle hovering above its thick foliage of trees. The truth is, it’s a world within a world.
A vast expanse of serene flatland is what Lake Venado offers, respite to weary climbers. Here, sans the occasional clouds that obscure the view, one can see the grandeur of the mountain considered by many the ultimate Philippine mountain climbing experience.
Long exposure shot of Mt. Apo at night. Photo by Edwin B. Lasquite
At night, the tune of cicadas lulled us to sleep after we saw to our heart’s content a sky bedecked with stars.
This sacred ground of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao is also rich in myths and legends that add to the mystery that shrouds this mountain. A sense of fulfillment awaits climbers at one of Apo’s three peaks. It’s a rewarding conclusion to a trek in conquering the country’s highest mountain.
The beauty of this mountain and the fulfillment that awaits adventurous souls who climb it should be experienced by every Filipino. But with this shocking forest fire, it looks like some things will never be the same again. This disaster, whether man-made or natural, should compel us as a nation to assess the measures to protect Mt. Apo.
On paper, Mt. Apo seems to get the necessary protection it deserves through Republic Act 9237 which declared Mt. Apo as a protected area. This is the time when authorities should reflect on what needs to be done to better protect this area.
After all this, maybe it’s about time for the government to temporarily close Mt. Apo to the public to let the mountain flourish and rejuvenate. During this time, educating the public on the importance of Mt. Apo should also be scaled up.
Maybe Mt. Apo is telling us something. Maybe we are pushing Mt. Apo to the limits.
This mountain in the southern part of the country is a source of our national pride. The shape of Mt. Apo’s future depends heavily on what decisions are made and what actions are taken today. This mountain is too beautiful to be just plastered on tarpaulins, postcards and ad materials. The beauty of Mt. Apo lies within its lush forest. It’s about time to reflect and do whatever we can to protect Mother Nature’s tallest grandchild. It’s our moral obligation to help protect Mt. Apo for future generations to enjoy and experience.