UPDATE: Due to the recent forest fire which started in the Holy Week vacation climb surge, Apo is currently closed for further critical operations. Details will be in my coming blog. Article below was published a month before the incident happened.
* * * *
The Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge 2016
By Jojie Alcantara, photos by Rhonson Ng (Published in SunStar Davao, March 9, 2016)
Since October 10, 1880 when it was first conquered by then governor of Davao, Don Joaquin Rajal, who led the successful first ascent, Mount Apo has been a favorite climbing destination of many adventurers. Its mystical beauty is always tempting to many trekkers and outdoor enthusiasts, and a goal to first time mountaineers.
Mount Apo, Philippines’ tallest and most majestic stratovolcano, stands proudly at an elevation of 2,954m above sea level. Regarded as the Grandfather of Philippine Mountains (in etymology, although apo means grandchild, it is also a term used in respect for old people), the view at the peak overlooking Davao region is simply breathtaking.
Recognized as the banner site of ecotourism, this mountain is within the Mount Apo National Park range (one of only two ASEAN Natural Heritage Parks in the country) which covers 64,053 hectares of five different lush forest formations protecting a diverse species of animal life and plants, mostly endemic and rare (lauan and almaciga, threatened species of flora, and the endangered Philippine monkey eating eagle, to name a few).
It is home to stunning waterfalls, hot springs, rivers and lakes, the famous of which is the cold Lake Venado. Geothermal plants are situated halfway up, ensconced among giant trees and wild garden parks. Lumad settlers are still peacefully dwelling in the vicinity. The photogenic and distinct white boulders at the peak you see in pictures are caused by sulfuric emissions.
On April 29-30, 2011, one of the toughest adventure races in the Philippines was launched at the municipality of Sta. Cruz. The first Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge was a 24-hour extreme relay starting from the coastal areas of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur to the skyline of Mt. Apo’s boulder face. Participants underwent extremely tiring but exciting tasks of mountain biking, trekking, water tubing and road running. It continued to run successfully each year as the most extreme 24-hour race to Mt. Apo’s Peak, with high prizes at stake.
This year it is set on April 23-24, 2016, with some modifications. The ultimate race will cover only three (3) disciplines: the Water Tubing (5 km), Mountain Biking (36.6 km) and Trail Running (53.5 km).
The race categories are as follows: the Open Elite Category (composed of two racers and 1 logistics) is changed to Individual Open Elite (one logistic crew is considered per participant); the relay categories of All-Male Relay and All-Women Relay will have the same number of players in a team (three with one racer to perform each discipline).
The Boulder Face Challenge has made Davao Region a leading destination for eco-adventure for several consecutive years now. It went global when participating teams from Southeast Asia and Canada registered, promoting Davao region as a prime and international eco-adventure tourism destination. It is also a timely inclusion to the Visit Davao Fun Sale (VDFS) Program as well DOT’s Visit the Philippines Again 2016 campaign.
The annual adventure race aims to develop responsible ethics among outdoor enthusiasts, cultivate a spirit of camaraderie and foster a lasting peace and order situation in Mindanao through sportsmanship. Foremost objective is to create awareness on the protection of the highest peak, and its inclusion in the VDFS 2016 campaign umbrella is projected to boost tourist arrivals in the summer season.
Photos of Mount Apo are from the recent climb of photographer Rhonson Ng and the Visit Davao Fun Sale Execom headed by Benjie Lizada, in partnership with DOTXI and LGU-Sta.Cruz. For more information, visit the official website www.visitdavaofunsale.com.
The author is a multi-awarded photographer, journalist, and artist whose works are featured in tourism campaigns (It’s More Fun in the Philippines), covers and spreads of books and international magazines. A long time columnist of SunStar Davao, she is a frequent traveler in search of inspirational heartwarming stories of human interest. She is also an influencer and motivational speaker who gives photography workshops in universities and organizations. A former TV personality, she has done several print and TV commercials, event hosting and speaking engagements. In 2013, she has received an award from the City Government of Davao for her significant contribution in the social media. She was one of the speakers in Photo World Asia 2017. A web designer/blogger since the 90s, she has seen the evolution of the internet and social media transition from the perspective of a traditional media person.