Mighty standing 2954masl, Mt. Apo earned the title of being the highest amongst all landforms across the Philippine archipelago. At least that’s what our teachers taught us, but aside from this fact, how well do we know the grandfather of the Philippine mountains? What are the secrets long-kept by the locals and only made known to those who choose to follow the scrambling path to its peak?
To complete the three summits that tower over the major islands of the country, we agreed to hike Mt. Apo before the year 2017 ends. Planning it months before December seemed exciting, but as the dates drew nearer, everything changed. Live on my newsfeed, I’ve seen more and more people hiking the prestigious trails of Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur traversing to Kidapawan City, Cotabato.
With the world more connected than ever, I’ve begun to see the paths that we’ll be taking – steep trails, boulders, white sand, sulfur vents, and lakes. Slowly, the excitement died. On the day of the event, I wasn’t certain of what I’m feeling. I wasn’t as excited as our Kanlaon hike. Neither was I palpitating like on my first hike to Mt. Talinis. I was not as prepared as I was in Mt. Pulag. And probably the only thing that kept me going was to accomplish the Three Summits Goal.
But you see, there’s more to the mountains than what people tell about them and how they are conveyed through perfectly captured photographs. The experiences on trails are things often left undocumented. So here, allow me to share what most people don’t tell you about Mt. Apo.
They won’t tell you the people you’ll meet on trails and the way they’ll change the way you view mountaineering.
The farmland, rainforest, and the onset of cold weather allowed us to meet people from varied walks of life. Along the boulders, we’ve met teenage porters and trail runners who made Apo their dearest friend. Their worn-out canvas shoes and rubber slippers proved that hiking doesn’t need to be expensive and lavish. The warm smiles they greet showed, that like Mount Apo, one must keep grounded no matter how tall (and outstanding) one has become.
They won’t tell you about the thin line that separates regular climbers from mountaineers.
There is a current raging debate about the evolution of mountaineering here in the Philippines. Many would claim that people should identify themselves in categories such as hiker, mountaineer, climber, and trekker. But the trails and campsites of Mt. Apo made me realize that labels shouldn’t be a hindrance to working together on the single pledge of taking care of the environment. Whatever identity you’d like to partake in, you should always keep the sanctity and cleanliness of the mountains.
They won’t tell you about the divine providence of the wilderness.
On a fast-paced track, it’s difficult to appreciate the terrains, flora, and fauna seen on trails. This is the reason why our guide, Vince, asked us to just enjoy the hike. Come to think of it, it’s not every day that we get to hike Mt. Apo. In between breaks and ascents, he pointed out some plants that are often taken for granted by many. Such species that added thrill through the hike – like the white flower which we kept on smelling, magic beans that pranked most of us, and alingatong which still pricks and itches my arm up unto this writing.
They won’t tell you about the real obstacles along the way.
While most fear the boulders, sulfur vents, and steep trails of Mt. Apo, it is yet to be realized that the real obstacle upon summiting includes endurance and will to continue. The unpredictable weather condition of the mountain can either fuel or put off the fire inside. With the uneven paths, there were times when our feet could no longer maneuver and our legs felt so heavy that it became almost difficult to take another step.
On our way to the White Sands, one of my comrades asked if we can go back to the campsite. Fatigue was visible on her once jolly disposition. I, too, had my fair share of almost wanting to fly back to Cebu and embrace the warmth of my bed when dawn came and cold started to grip my feet. The worst case happened when our organizer, Jeff, slipped and injured his right arm. In those struggling moments, I knew, Apo was teaching the most valuable lesson to us: faith and resilience.
They won’t tell you that failure is part of the game.
After scrambling through the boulders and patiently dealing with the rainforest, we finally reached the summit. Sadly, instead of seeing the crater and the beauty that is Davao and Cotabato, we were welcomed by the harsh winds, drizzle, and fog. Zero visibility. We stood in awe, trying to feign what on Earth have we done to deserve such a phenomenon. Tina cried. Who wouldn’t? Her foot cramped but still, she continued summiting only to be greeted by such conditions.
I was about to accept an ill-fated ending to the story when I saw Jeff looking sternly at the crater, now covered with white sheets. Hope was in his eyes. Then it dawned to me that probably it was the best version that Apo wanted us to see: that after the rain comes a rainbow. The sun penetrated through the darkness and thinned the fog, giving us a beautiful clearing plus a sea of clouds. Truly, glory comes to those who wait.
They won’t tell you the things you will learn about yourself.
I was wearing beach sandals when we started the hike to Kapatagan Campsite, thinking it would just be a walk in the park. Later did I know that it would be a three-hour ascent. I didn’t bring any windbreaker or thermal, for I barely see photos of people wearing such on the peak. Later did I know that the coldness of the summit and campsite would somehow parallel Pulag’s. I don’t usually cook at home but I ended up preparing chicken adobo, camote top salad, and other meals for the group. You see, the absence of something innovates something else. There were times when I wish I could’ve prepared better for this hike, but I guess that was how fate wanted me to experience it – to survive amidst everything else.
In the words of Lagataw, I can’t exactly tell you how fun and frustrating the climb was. You were not there during those drunken moments. You were not in the tent when somebody spilled all the whims of her heart. You were not there when wild cats hover around the campsite. You were not there when monkeys of various colors peeped while somebody was releasing all his shit. You were not there to taste the spaghetti and pancit which were magically cooked in the absence of everything. But I tell you, these deficiencies will finally make sense. You may have seen videos, documentaries, photographs, and blogs about Mt. Apo, but it will never be the same once you’re there. People purposely don’t tell everything because there is so much that this mountain can let you experience – like a grandfather that never runs out of stories to tell to his grandchildren.
This year, I challenge you to hike Mt. Apo and learn more things that people purposely don’t tell.
See you on trails!
- Mt. Apo can be accessed through varied trails – Sibulan, Kidapawan, Kapatagan, and Talomo. Depending on your pace, this mountain can be hiked in a day or more. In our case, we had it for three days excluding transport and a hike to Kapatagan.
- If you want to ditch the hassles of organizing and planning for your hike, you can maximize the packages offered by guides in the area. The inclusion of permits, transportation to and fro the airport, food, and guide fee can range from P5000+ per head depending on the number of participants. You can contact Sir Joel Bautista (+63-918-702-0568) or Sir Vinz Jayno (0946-651-9111) for a detailed transaction.