My Mt. Apo Encounter at ’68

Hiking in and around my neck of the woods is something I do 3-4 times weekly if not more depending on the weather. Apart from this, I have hiked part of the Lycian Way & Babadag mountain in Turkey, the Palestinian desert, Camino de Santiago and in my own province, I have hiked the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Garibaldi, trails on Whistler and the Wells Provincial Park to name a few. I was prepared for Mt. Apo, or so I thought…
My personal adventure started on the motorcycle ride from the Bus Terminal on ?Digos?
A few years ago in Turkey, I took the risk of a motorcycle lift. The risk was not the trail but hitching a lift from a stranger. So I thought I got this… but the shock of seeing 2 heavy packs plus my own strapped on the motorcycle was just the beginning of the many “Are you sure you wanna do this?” moments. Then, of course, 3 bodies on this narrow-bodied motorcycle! I found the ride exhilarating, to be honest until…the part where the road got rocky with numerous potholes. The ride got so rugged I was sure I was going to get tossed out of the motorcycle and OMG, no one was wearing a helmet. Behind the motorcyclist’s ear I screamed, ” Are you kidding me?” ” What the hell!”  “WTF!” etc I wonder what he thought of me?!
To my relief, we arrived at the dam site( I can’t remember the name of the place) where we started hiking.
Day 1
I so welcome the sight of the villages and the villagers doing their usual daily chores. My impression was how happy the children seem to play with each other in nature. Right then and there I prayed that may this part of the world stay like it is for many more years to come before climate change and technology leave its disastrous mark.
At 32C I welcomed the entry into the woods, it was much, much warmer than what I’m used to. The flora was a feast for the eyes; the fauna’s incessant chatter was music to my ears. I would have liked to linger longer at each “new” thing I see but we were already behind schedule as it is and so had to establish camp at Tinikaran rather than Camp 2.
Tents were set up, the welcome meal amazingly prepared, after a few housekeeping instructions i.e. where to do #1 or #2, it was bedtime. It didn’t take long for me to doze off only to awaken a few hours later by the “Battle of the Musangs”. Man, they were loud! When I peeked out of my tent I saw a pair of yellow eyes glaring at me. I quickly zipped my tent again.
Day 2
After a breakfast of porridge, rice, eggs & tea we set off to another of Mt. Apo’s “reveal”. I was warned that Day 2 would be more difficult and though I’m still moving slow I found Day 1’s heat was more draining than Day 2. Challenging though pulling one’s self through the roots, hopping/climbing in and around the tree stumps, the lava rocks, and boulders, it was “cool”. The sulfur vent, though I found awesome, gave me a headache. I suppose this is the reason I didn’t see any birds flying. I would have run away from that environ if I could. We had lunch at Gabroq E-Camp. It was amazing to see the source of all the lava rocks. The crater didn’t seem big enough to have belched out all those ginormous rocks and boulders but obviously mighty.
We camped out onWhite Sand.
After dinner, Voltaire took me up to the first peak. It was anticlimactic. Voltaire was somewhat disappointed that I was not whooping and hurraying. My reply was, we’re only halfway, we have to descend yet! To his credit, Voltaire really wanted to take me to the second peak but that would mean going back to camp in the dark and I opted out.
Day 3
After a hearty breakfast, we started our descend in the rain the same way we came up. I respected Voltaire’s decision and rationale for doing so because I am such a slow poke. The wet sulfuric rain was stinging my eyes. Back at Gabroq, Voltaire was hopeful..we were doing good time or so he thought. Apart from being slow I was stopping quite often and looking back intently at the sight we are leaving behind. I felt I needed to imprint it in my brain coz a camera would not do justice.
My troubles began halfway down when the agony of my knees started to manifest its age which has been my nemesis on every steep hike. Voltaire was very encouraging all the way. Jun was ready to give a hand and towards the last village, I had to surrender my backpack to Jun. The last hour was terrifically agonizing. And the ecstasy? Seeing MacMac and his motorcycle waiting for us. I yelled, “Am I so glad to see you!”
 I’m glad I went into it blindly because had I seen photos or heard or read something about the trail, I would have probably bowed out because, at 68, my daughter would  have certainly posed the question, “And why are you punishing yourself?”
I would like to thank the professional staff of Mt. Apo Adventures especially Voltaire, my guide, my chef and caregiver; and Jun our porter/sweeper who appeared to be in constant Zen state.
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Mt. Apo’s Oldest Foreign Conqueror

In the past ten years, has brought people to Mt. Apo from all walks of life—of different nationalities, newbies and experienced trekkers alike, and people from all ages.

This year, we made a new record. Ronald Candray, 76, summited Mt. Apo last February 11,2018 making him the oldest foreigner to climb via Sta. Cruz Trail. Together with us were my assistant, Roger Navarro, and two Skykes from Scotland Emma and Calum.

Mr. Candray, was born on April 1941, in USA and is now residing in Sweden. He was an athlete during his younger years. One of his hobbies is trekking the highest point of every country that he visits during the holidays. He still continues to conquer summits around the world to this date.

While enjoying a sumptuous dinner in an authentic Indian resto in Davao to celebrate his climb, I asked him what his secret is in making this possible and he says that it is because he maintains an active lifestyle, good diet and regular exercise.

Ron, at 76, still strong and sharp, conquering mountains with a smile on his face, has inspired me to set a new life goal—that someday, when I reach his age, I could still do the same—to be able to climb this mountain and experience its wonders. No one is too old nor to young to experience the wonders of nature. Conquering ourselves will always be an adventure of a lifetime.

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Mt. Apo Traverse Climb @ 77…

Last March 30 2017, Mr. Tony Olarte, 67, a former guest who did his first climb to Mt.Apo with us last April 2014, made a call asking me to organize a climb for his group of 4 trekkers to do a traverse climb to Mt. Apo.

Without hesitation I gave him the costing and climb details as to his preferences and we agreed to take the Magpet-Sta. Cruz Traverse trail and set the date on May 26-28, 2017.

The group was composed of Antonio Olarte (group leader), Juanito Braga, Rheyja Lou Cerrado, Vanesa Rein, Ivymar Jean Coyoca and Aireen Cardenas, together with my crew Roy Navarro ad 4 Local porters from the Ubo Manobo tribe. The last two participants were added a week before the climbing date. All of us were looking forward for the success of this climb since Mr. Juanito (Johnny) Braga has just celebrated his 77th birthday last May 13 making him the oldest to climb Mt. Apo via Magpet-Sta.Cruz Traverse Trail.

Our climbing tour lasted for 3 nights and 3 days since we travelled to Kidapawan City the night before the climb and stayed there for the night.

On the first day of our trek, we arrived around 6:30 AM at the trail situated in Tuasuvan Resort, Bongolanon, Magpet which features Bongolanon waterfalls. As per itinerary, we had our Filipino breakfast with steamed veggies, salted eggs ad fish together with rice. We then started the ascent to Bobong camp site after.

The first 3 hours of this trail will really measure your physical strength since it’s a direct ascend to the jungle with steep parts. When we reached Anus e-camp, we refilled all our water bottles and had an early lunch since its already drizzling at that time. The whole group really felt the agony of the trail but it was filled up with joy with the lush flora and fauna along the trail and the guys were very much inspired by Sir Johny who is very much doing fine at his age and the porters who carry the heavy supplies.

Afterwards, we continue to trek up and it already started to drizzle and we encountered rain until we reach Kaipisan e-camp around 3:00PM. We descended to Bobong campsite and arrived at around 3:30PM while the rest of the group together with Sir Toy and the sweepers arrived 30 minutes later, a little bit  tired but still with high spirits.

We started to set up camp and pitched the tents to prepare dinner while our guests enjoyed the water of Bobong creek while washing up. We concluded the day with sumptuous dinner of Sinigang Baboy (pork Stew with sour soup and a pinch of chili) and had a short meeting after for tomorrow’s climb.

The following day, we prepared breakfast at around 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM was wake up call for the trekkers. Coffee and hot choco were served then followed by breakfast. We broke camp and started our trek at 7:30 AM. Our 2nd day trek will end up to 87 degrees campsite passing Kawayanan campsite and Lake Venado where we had our lunch break. The trail on this part of Mt. Apo features mossy forest with rolling up and flat jungle paths with some obstacle.

We arrived in Lake Venado half past noon while the rest of the group arrived 30 minutes later. We took some rest, enjoyed the view of the whole Mt. Apo while having our lunch and did some photo shoots with the guys and continued trekking afterwards since everybody was very eager to reach the summit.

The trail from the lake to the summit is ascending and at this point the whole group feel the stress of going up specially the older members of the group but still decided to reach the summit. The temperature at this elevation starts to lower down so we advised everybody to put on some layers since the temperature will still go down further as nightfall approaches. After a few hours of trekking to the summit the whole group were amazed with the dramatic view of sunset with the whole view of Lake Venado down below. We were lucky to get that view since you don’t always get to see a beautiful sunset from the summit. We were in the West side of the mountain at this time so we experienced this as we go up to the summit which inspired the trekkers.

It was really dark when we arrived at the campsite and we had to go back for the members at the rear specially Sir Johny and Sir Tony. We had to make sure that they will arrive safely. It was already a little late when we had dinner but everybody were well fed, warm and comfortable enough to gain energy for the 3rd day trek which is all going down.

During the last day of our trek, unfortunately, we were not able to catch the sunrise since the weather was not so good. Fog was still covering the peak of Mt. Apo at around 6AM while we were preparing our breakfast and packed lunch. We had our breakfast and broke camp so we can do some peak hopping and descend as early as possible.

Sir Juanito (Johny ) Braga at the summit of Mt. Apo at age 77

We visited the Davao Side Summit and took some photos for souvenirs. At this time, we had a clearing and we saw the view of Davao del Sur and Davao City including Samal Island. The cloud formations were spectacular and everybody had a moment of appreciation for their efforts from all the hardship of going up and reaching the goal to be on top of the highest mountain of the Philippines. The climb was made even made more special and fulfilling that we did it with “The Oldest Climber To Reach The Summit Of Mt. Apo” in the person Of Sir Johny Braga at 77, through the leadership of Sir Tony and with the crew of

After peak hopping, we started to descend to our exit point via Sta. Cruz Trail passing by the old crater, the boulders part of Mt. Apo, Tinikaran Campsites and Sitio Colan. We arrived safely around night time at Sitio Baruring where our vehicle was waiting to bring us to Bario Kapatagan. Then from Kapatagan, we rode a van back to Davao City.

The whole group was exhausted at this point but written on their faces were contentment and self-fulfillment of being able to conquer the highest mountain in the country which not everybody could get the chance and the ability to do.


From the team of, again, our salute and warmest congratulations to Sir Juanito (Johny) Braga for being the oldest Person to Climb Mt. Apo! You will always serve as an inspiration to us! When we’re 77, we hope to still be able to conquer Mt. Apo just like you!

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First Time’s Always Exciting!

I always reminisce my first time experiences. What is it? Where did it happen? How was the experience? And it always boils down to one thing, the desire of doing such. J Well, everyone has their own versions of “things to do”, whether it be travelling around the world, pigging out at the most expensive restaurant, doing sky diving, swimming at the deepest sea, getting a pet, or climbing a mountain. J Now, let me tell you my first ever major climb experience.

Three years back, I told someone that I want to climb the highest peak in the Philippines, Mt. Apo. My desire of climbing that mountain is as a high as 10,311 feet! haha. Oh well, fast track to 2015, that desire came true! J

It was supposedly my 27th birthday gift, too bad no schedule for my birth date. L Checking on the other dates, November 28-30 was the most convenient since 28th was Saturday and it’s my off from work, and 30th was a National holiday! So I’ll only take a leave for a day. J

Anyhow, before going to the trails you need to have briefing first. Sir Albert Gabriel of Mt. Apo Adventures, was our guide. He gave some orientations on what to expect during the climb. He answered one of my awkward questions like, where are we going to defecate? Because that is my big nuisance when going outdoor! Haha

6am on the 28th was the call time. I haven’t had enough sleep, maybe because I was keyed up? Haha I even came at D’Counter too early like 5:30am. J

There are nine guests in total, including me and I’m the only one from Davao City, others from Cebu, Manila, Gensan and India.


Let’s go to the highlight. So how’s the climb? It was arduous! Haha. I thought I was really prepared physically but I was wrong! Farm trail was first. There’s a small community living there and it’s good to converse with some locals and realize how uncomplicated there lives are. They have planted crops like carrots, cabbages and potatoes as their source of living. That time, we saw some children bathing. If by any chance you passed by these kids, you can give them some sweets. That would make them happy. J Up there, my chest tightened and I have troubled breathing. The sun was up, and it was really hot! So I’m like bathing in my own sweat! But, after how many minutes of walking uphill, the tightening was gone. I guess I’m already in the swing of things. J

The second trail was the mossy forest. It’s a good thing that tall trees shade us from the sun. Somehow, it’s already fogging when we entered. We even experienced some intermittent rain inside so please don’t forget the poncho. The forest was mystical. It’s like someone’s been living inside preserving its beauty. I even saw for the first time what a moss is! Hehe. A few hours after, we arrived at campsite 1 or Tinikaran (name of a tree). In there, we set up the tents, had a little chit chat, did some power nap. We changed some clothes and Buboy one of the porters cooked pork sinigang for dinner. It was perfect since it’s already getting colder. I think around 9 in the evening, drowsiness was already knocking on me so I hit the sack and said my goodnight.

So did I sleep well? NO! haha. It was cold and my tolerance to chilly temperature is low. Somehow, I should be ready for the next track. Second day was for boulders (very big rocks) the verdict? Hard-hitting! The worst part? I cried haha. I was really bushed up and I got blisters on my pinkie toes L Good thing I brought my slippers with me. Another thing, I’m acrophobic. So just standing in high places makes my knees jelly! Especially when looking back and I’m already far above the ground, I could feel wooziness. I was really scared then and my pace is so time-consuming. So imagine I’m slow as a snail! Terribly too, when we arrived at the “87 degrees” I become more nervous and distrustful of myself with climbing it. It was steep and I’ve felt this is my finale haha. I even got nightmare that I couldn’t go down anymore and stay at Mt. Apo’s summit forever!  So I did a self check then, did I choose the right activity? haha.


After the petrifying 87 degrees, we arrived at the old crater! J It was filled with knee length water. It was big too. I didn’t dare anymore plummeting my feet since I couldn’t take the coldness. As far as I remember, we went on to the three different peaks before going to summit’s campsite! J It was sunny that time but breezy, and it brings winterness to my bones.


ALBERT C.GABRIEL 09295452888


Other reason for me is to witness the sunset and sunrise, and it didn’t fail me. It was stunning and great! We are blessed to have a good weather condition that time. It was my first time and it was really amazing! The sun was so near to me and the view’s so stellar! I couldn’t ask for more, really. It made me teary eyed. Best birthday gift ever! J Thank you Lord!


The most struggling is the descent. I was in a ghastly situation that time. Not just blisters, cramps, low pace walking, crying but the sun was down when we reached the forest. Imagine how dark it was! To be honest my legs really hurt and I can barely walk. I was so worn-out. L But, I really need to finish this walk! Thanks to Nonoy and Buboy for being uncomplaining and not leaving me. They are the best porters ever! J And at almost 8pm, I arrived at the jump off point.


ALBERT C.GABRIEL 09295452888

The thing here is, we will always have fear of something. But then we just need to keep on going and just do it. It’s always hard for the first timer to climb a mountain especially Mt. Apo but then, it’s always exciting because you will be proud of yourself especially when you reach the summit! It’s a journey, there will always be potholes on the way but just continue the stride and it will be a rewarding end. Yes it was tiring but then it was worth it! So will I climb again? Without a doubt! Getting ready for the revenge climb haha! See you on the summit! J


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Amazing Grace

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Trekking Adventures Offered

Since the closure of Mt.Apo since summer of 2016 due to the Forrest Fire that happened last March 24 this year scouted some mountains to trek as alternative activity in the region.

Below are some of the mountains that we offer for climbing(Click the photo for details):

1.Lake Holon Trekking



2.Mt Kitanglad-Dulang Traverse Trekking



3. Mt. Candalaga Trekking



4.Mt. Matutum Trekking



5. Sicao Village – Tiko Village Trekking


Kindly contact the Authur/Guide if you’re interested to one of these Trekking activities.


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Three Sister’s Journey to the Roof of the Philippines

Being the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo attracts hikers from all over. When I told my sisters I wanted to go, they immediately volunteered to go with me. I was actually surprised since they are not regular hikers, and Mt. Apo only happened to be the tallest mountain in the Philippines. But they said go go go, so OK.

After some research, we decided to do the Kapatagan-Kidapawan traverse and book the trip with Kuya Albert of Our package included a guide, two porters, camping materials and food. Kuya Albert was very responsive from our initial inquiry to the day we met him for the orientation.

Monday, Nov 23. Our flight was arriving in Davao early and we set to meet with Kuya Albert at Jollibee at 9am. We weren’t planning to eat, but when we got there we felt hungry so we ordered breakfast. We gave Kuya Albert our Application forms & medical certificates and he briefed us about the hike and introduced us to Kuya Paul who will be our guide.

Kuya Paul took us to a bus ride for about an hour or so. When we got off, there were two habal-habals waiting to take us to Kapatagan, where we will stay for the night.


We arrived at Camp Linaw just before lunch.  It was very peaceful and serene. They had a koi pond that had some tilapias in it too. I think we were the only guests that time (it was a Monday). We were lead upstairs, which had 2 rooms. The mattresses were set up on the floor, but they were comfortable. It rained starting around noon, and Kuya Paul was kind enough to offer to buy food for us, which we graciously accepted. We also met Kuya Buboy, one of our porters who lived in the area. He dropped by to say hi. All in all, our stay at the camp was restful and enjoyable.


Tuesday, Nov 24. We set up to leave at 6:30am. We stopped by a carinderia to have breakfast and get our baon for lunch. The habal-habal ride to the trailhead was a foretaste of what’s to come. All three of us rode in 1 motorbike, plus the driver.  So imagine four adults in a motorbike, trying to navigate some very tricky, muddy, and slick hill….I think I stopped breathing a few times. There was a portion too that one of us (me!) had to sit in front of kuya driver, otherwise I will fall at the back. Since I could then see the path in front of me, I got more nervous! Kuya driver even remarked, “Ma’am relax lang po kayo, naninigas po kayo eh.” Bwahahahaha! Kalurkey!

We couldn’t reach the trailhead fast enough, and I was just happy when we did. There we met our second porter, Kuya Nonoy. All groups are required to have a “local” porter (from the villages in the mountain) and Kuya Nonoy was ours! He carried our tents/sleeping bags/ cookware/food while we gave Kuya Buboy one backpack for our extra stuff and on we went!

We started the trek maybe around 730am. First five minutes and we were already sweating! We reached a village -it’s probably Sitio Colan – where there were some open cottages, so we rested there for a bit and removed some layers of clothing.


We passed through vegetable farmlands and we saw some pretty flowers along the way.


We reached Sitio Tumpis where the sign said “10.07km to Mt. Apo summit” so we knew we were still far! Hehe. Soon we found ourselves in the forest! It rained around lunch time as well. We stopped to eat lunch somewhere not too rainy. Hahaha.


While on a break, the kuyas started discussing which camp site we would go to. The original plan was to camp at the summit on the first day. As I expected, we were hiking slower than planned. After weighing our options, we decided that camping at the summit was out of the question. That meant we had to go through the boulders at night, which wasn’t safe. Instead, we camped just past Tinikaran Campsite 2 (there was already a big group camped there when we arrived).


The kuyas found a nice flat place in the middle of the foggy forest. The place felt magical!! We were immediately offered hot drinks (coffee or milo) by the kuyas! What a welcome offer on that cold rainy day! They set up our tents and we were able to rest for a bit while the kuyas started cooking! Dinner was sinigang!! Woohoo!!


We also refilled our water containers from the water source, which was this little basin of water on a stream. It didn’t seem clean to me and I was battling whether or not to use my filter, but the kuyas insisted that the water was good. So….here I am and I lived to tell the tale. We had dinner and afterwards it was just chikahan with the kuyas. I was so cold, Kuya Nonoy offered me a drink from his plastic water bottle! I asked what it was and he said “Tanduay ma’am.” Well I never had Tanduay before! Indeed, there’s always a first time, so I took a couple of shots…and it did help. J We spent the time just chit-chatting and playing some music! All this and we were probably asleep by 8pm. Hahaha.

Wednesday, November 25. I know it was still early when I heard some rustling outside and …someone played music! It lasted for about a minute then all was quiet again. We would found out later that morning that it was Kuya Nonoy. He got up, fetched some water and started playing music – because he thought it was 5am already! Hahaha!

We had a quick breakfast…and a cute little monkey decided to join us! We watched him for a bit, packed our lunch and set off to tackle the boulders!


After a short walk, we saw the sign! All smiles pa kami dyan!


The boulders are a unique feature in this hike. It proves that Mt. Apo has erupted, though it is not historically known when it did. There were tricky parts on this trail, and we’re glad we didn’t have to do it the night before. We also saw the sulfur vents.



Soon I saw the mini rock tower that they said we could clmb it! “Uhhhmmm….medyo madulas kuya!!” The kuyas helped me out…so that’s actual rock-climbing for me! 😛 Thank you to Kuya Nonoy & Kuya Buboy.


After the boulders, we came to what they called “white sands” and it started raining again! Kuya Buboy once again had ready hot drinks for us!! Milo ulit sa umuulang hapon! Service de luxe!!


After the quick break, we tackled the “87 degrees” hill. We had to scramble a bit and after that we saw the crater. I was ahead of my sisters for a bit, and it was raining hard, so my pic at the crater was really hazy. When they arrived, the rain mellowed a bit, so we had a better picture! We could also make out some of the names creatively placed at the bottom using stones…


Moving up a bit more…and we’re at the summit- Davao side!! We were so giddy when we reached the summit! Finally! What an effort! It was raining still so the shots were hazy…we didn’t care. We reached Mt. Apo’s summit!



Well, one of its peaks anyway, and not the highest one, apparently. There’s another one that’s 10m higher about half an hour away. Unfortunately, given the weather and our fear of not reaching Lake Venado before dark, we decided to forego going to the other peaks.

We had lunch at the summit camp. It was windy and very cold in the area. I tried jogging back and forth to make myself warm. Kuya Nonoy had refilled his Tanduay (courtesy of the porters from the other group…hehe) so he offered me some. I took a shot and I was good! 😉


The trail down to Lake Venado wasn’t easy but it wasn’t too bad. There were parts that were slippery but manageable. By this time we were already used to holding on to roots, stems, trunks – whatever we could hold on to so we wouldn’t fall. My sister and Kuya Buboy were running stats on who had more falls. About an hour to camp, I saw Kuya Nonoy who was going back again (he did the same on the first day!) to take my sisters’ packs so they could walk faster. Ang bait talaga!



When I reached the camp, the tents were already set up! Great, I thought, because I was feeling so cold already, and I just wanted to get into the tent to get warm. It was another tiring day.


My sisters arrived about half an hour later, also very tired. It was still raining too, so we just stayed inside the tent. The kuyas creatively placed the tarp between our tents so they can cook the food there and we can eat inside the tent. J Dinner was spaghetti. J We ate to our hearts’ contents and there were still lots of leftovers! Good thing too, because it seemed like the porters of the other group weren’t being fed properly. L We slept early again that night, while the kuyas spent the night bonding with the kuyas from the other group (they had 7 porters!!)

Thursday, November 26. As has been our routine, we woke up early. We were mesmerized by the scene.

We couldn’t help taking pictures!!


After breakfast and before we left….we took some more pics!


I think by then Kuya Nonoy had no more inhibitions, as evidenced by his pose! Hahaha!! After all the pics…off we went.


I’m really glad we did the traverse. Otherwise we wouldn’t have seen this side of Mt. Apo. And we would have missed the magical Lake Venado! But the fun was far from over — the Kidapawan side had a lot more surprises in store for us!

j20aLadders! There would be more ladders than I could count on this trail. The first one was really scary. After a while, we got the hang of it…

And then there were the river crossings. Those were another story altogether! There were tree trunks or some made-up ladders you could use to cross…but most were thin and slippery! And if you fall…well, you’re just gonna have to deal with it! Nakakaloka!! The kuyas were very helpful at the crossings. There was one time, they even invented a hand rail, with Kuya Nonoy & Kuya Paul holding each end, while Kuya Buboy was taking our picture. Da best!



This third day was tiring but still so much fun! By then we were used to our heavy packs and really just enjoying the trail.


We passed a sayote plantation! Hehehe. So many big and nice-looking sayote! We learned that the villagers took them and sold them at the bottom of the mountain. Nice.


My sister also sprained her ankle toward the end, so I carried her pack for her on the way down. When we reached the last village, and the trail was once again going up, Kuya Nonoy took the pack from me and I willingly obliged. Wehehe.

Before we knew it, we were done!! Wooooo!! So tiring, yet so fulfilling!! Thank you Lord!!


Afterwards, as a thank you to our kuyas who took good care of us, we asked them to join us at Lake Agco resort so we call all take a well-deserved bath! It rained hard again after our dip at the hot springs, and we hung out at Lake Agco for a while before taking the habal-habal back to town. We had dinner of litson manok & liempo at Boyak’s – a befitting celebration for one awesome hike!


If you’ve reached this part, congratulations! Either you’re a very patient person, or you’re really interested in climbing Mt. Apo! As you can see from our pictures, we had a great time. Even my sisters, who were newbies and didn’t train so much, definitely enjoyed – though there were times they looked like they wanted to give up. Hehe.

We can’t say enough about Kuya Paul, Kuya Buboy and Kuya Nonoy. There were times when all three of us weren’t together because our paces were different, but all of us always had a kuya with us! J They made sure we were having fun too. The jokes and life stories were definitely part of the awesomeness!

There are some hikes that you do once and you’re done. For me, Mt. Apo is a place I won’t mind visiting again.


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My Mt. Apo Journal

My heart is pounding fast. I could almost feel it going out from my ears. I am out of breath. Sweats dripping all over my body. I feel numb. My eyes blur that I need to blink it away. My legs tremble that I sometimes sway. I am walking but no longer thinking. Suddenly, I feel the anger. I feel the pain. With so much effort, I thrust my trekking pole. I need to do this. I should never stop. I never stopped.


On August 9, 2015, I received a message from Allan, inviting me to conquer Mt. Apo. He had two available slots since the original members of their team backed out. He was so frustrated that all the people he invited turned him down. Then he thought of me. I did not over think. I immediately said yes and ended our message. While I was in bed, I became restless and afraid. In just a month, I will be climbing Mt. Apo. What has gotten to my mind? Am I too depressed and frustrated to go into the mountains which is way too risky? Ample preparations need to be done. And I know I’m running out of time. I panicked. I need to decline the offer. But I’ll do it in the morning. I will disappoint Allan since I already said yes, but what should I do? I chickened out!

As I checked my e-mail, I noticed Allan’s messages which I haven’t read last night. It says that we will be only four, Allan, his best friend Dominique, I and the person whom we will invite. He is the only person I know in the team. He was afraid of going up but he needed to support and fulfill his best friend’s dreams- conquering Mt. Apo. Dom travelled far just to be in Davao. I, knowing Allan’s health condition understand that he needed someone of his pace. Dom is an adventurer and is very fit to climb. As for Allan, he needs a lady friend. Had I declined the offer? Obviously, NO. In the end, we kept on looking for the last person who will go with us. I told myself, if it would be so close and we would not find the last person, I would back out. I considered it as a sign.I’d contacted college and high school friends, previous workmates. We’d even approached a friend of mine at the mall. Few days left to Mt. Apo and not a single person said yes. Three.days before, our friend said she would go but in the evening decided not to.  Two days before the climb, I’d opened it to my cousin and her response was positive. We just had to wait for her boss’s approval, which was a big NO. She will be having a medical mission a week after that. If she wanted to come she needed to give up the mission or otherwise. Great! So it will just be Dom, Allan and I. I should back out. All throughout the month, I never did prepare. And my medical certificate would be my reason not to go. I’d prepared my lines, “Allan, I’m sorry I can’t come since the doctor wouldn’t allow me to go with you. “ Did it go that way? At 3:30 pm on September 3, I visited the doctor. I was very nervous that he might not provide me the med. cert. He almost opted for an ECG because my heart beat fast. My pulse rate was checked and voila! He gave me the “Physically and emotionally fit to go on trekking Mt. Apo.” Heavens! That means I AM OFFICIALLY GOING! I rushed to the mall nearby and bought a red poncho and yellow gloves. The orientation began at 5:30 and I was an hour and half travel away from Davao city.

Anyway, some people knew that I’ll be going but not my family members. I knew they would not allow me. So I told them that I’ll be going on a retreat at the ‘foot’ of Mt. Apo. It’s a gift from a student abroad. How could I not decline the offer when it’s all for free. But before I left, I told my sister where I was heading just in case something happened to me in the trip. At least one knew where I really was. She was so worried. Duh… I let her be. I just carried a small backpack but my real hiking was hidden below so that they would not wonder. Here’s to my ‘retreat’.

Fantastic Four

By 9:00 p.m., I arrived at the “Counter Inn” where we were housed. Allan is my classmate in high school. We have something in common-singing. (We’d entertained the forest and trails in Mt. Apo. We faced the boulders and did our concerts, as if we had audience. We were sometimes left out by the group because of it.) Dominique, Allan’s bestfriend, a French has been working in Wallis and Futuna. He was a very friendly, humorous, generous and entertaining person. (We were amused every time he calls out someone left behind the trail. We know it’s his if we hear a baritone “Woooh.”)  They said that the orientation was done and they will do it for me. Allan told me that we have another companion for the trip, Kristoff. He was an overseas worker in Singapore. Silent and deep, first impression- he’s too serious but as we go on the trek, we’ve seen his bright side. He just saw our schedule for the hike and was interested to go along, alone. That makes four of us now.


Along the journey, we were accommodated and helped by our guide, Albert and our bubbly porters Roy, Buboy and Kuya Allan. They were a great team, sensitive to our needs. After our day long walking, trekking and climbing, our tents and meals were prepared. We found friends in the heart of the forest.

Ready. Set. Pant.

September 4, 2015, by bus our team travelled to Digos city where later we would be riding on a ‘habal-habal’. We also had Albert as our tour guide. With him was Roy, one of our porters.He said we would be meeting the rest of his men in Digos. Dom was very curious how a habal-habal looked like. He expected that it was similar to a motor bike but he got furious when told that it was a motorcycle that could carry six people. Well, he managed to meet a habal-habal with seven loads as he counted which made him more amazed. On our way to Kapatagan, we stopped over a ‘marang’ counter. It’s a milky fruit that seasons in Mindanao every August to October.Dom and Kristoff had their share of ‘marang’ experience.They preferred it than eating durian which they found stinky. So we continued our habal-habal adventure.



Lessons from the Grandfather

Even with company, I was alone with myself. While walking, trekking and struggling, I found time to be with my self. How did I see my journey in Mt. Apo? I wanted time for myself in as much as I tried to hide it. Before the hike, I was anxious, in search for something. This journey helped me discover more of who I really am. How do I see things I encounter along the way?

We need to experience different trails; and honestly, I so hate the jungle. Its narrow, slimy paths, grasses taller than humans brought restlessness in me. It was very humid! I became their laughing stock when it started raining and I happened to have bought a red poncho for kids. This left me being like little red riding hood! I had to hold on to the roots and trekking pole just to be on the trail. I didn’t like what I was seeing, all but green jungle, so dark. That moment made me realize that I couldn’t always hold my head high. Once I raised my head and tried to see what’s ahead I ran out of breath. Our guide told us that we needed to see at the eye-level if not eyes on the ground to stabilize our breathing. No need to rush things. We had to be in our own pace.Also, there are things bigger than me and who I am. That some good things are valued because it was hidden and discovered. The pacing I have in going up and down reflects how I do things. I saw my patience and felt my patience going out during the tough parts. Some things would block your way. Thus, in life, you need to be humble, patient and cautious.


The next trail was the boulder. We were greeted with humungous boulders. And I feel my drive awaken! This is the part that I most like. Going through the different sizes of rocks, transferring, balancing and grasping on them makes my adrenalin rush. I see rocks as the challenges in life. There are times I choose on passing through the small ones but at times dare to defy the big ones. It is a mountain of rocks and life is a mountain of challenges. There were times that you feel like giving up because it’s too steep and almost unending but unbelievably, you managed to pass all of it. I remembered Dom telling me that whenever we will encounter bigger boulders, look around and you’ll see easy way out. Problems and challenges aren’t solve in an instant. You have to decide and discern or else you might fall into the cockpit. Names were written on the boulders. It’s a reminder of people who hurt and gave the challenges you’ve been through. They may or may not be forever etched on the rock, but it has managed to leave a mark your life. What even makes the trail difficult but interesting is the annoying and disturbing smell of sulphur. It sometimes choked us. This reminded me of things, our darkest secrets which we can never hide forever. Just like the sulphur, it would find its ways to be revealed. And revealing would really help a lot. It lessens the weight on your shoulder. In life, we need to show and leave our excess baggage in order to carry suitcases, in order for us to be successful.


On our way to the boulders, we stopped on a clearing. Set forth in our eyes is a very steep and rocky mountain we thought as the peak. We relaxed for thirty minutes, one of the longest rest we had. Thinking that this is it, we climbed it. We came across the crater. The wind started to whistle and blew hard that we need to hold on to our pole and grasped roots in going higher to the peak. Cold, excitement and tiredness started to rule our system. It was difficult for us to climb. We had our sure and slow steps. Finally, we’ve made it! But was later on disappointed as Albert told us, “Welcome to the summit! This is the fourth highest part of Mt. Apo.” I feel our smiles fading. We look around and saw nothing but clouds. We hadn’t seen any other part. “ SurekaKuya? Asanmandiayang peak ani? Di ntomasakaang highest part? Dirirakutobtnan hikers?” I’m starting to get disappointed. He said no. After saying it, the clouds paved its way and we saw a higher part. “That’s it? That’s the peak?” We can’t take it anymore. Our knees our tired and trembling. He said no. “It is the center peak, and at the back, covered with clouds was the highest part of Mt. Apo.” No way! We are not going in there. Dom complains having only a hundred more step and has not plan of conquering the peak. In silence, we felt the same. So, as if our guide hadn’t heard us he managed to start walking. We scrambled on our feet. We felt tired and hungry. But we continued to follow Albert. We consoled each other that it would take us 200 steps to the center peak and 300 steps to the highest peak. Darn! We had the center peak for 20 minutes and the highest peak for 40 minutes. We could not almost believe we’ve reached the top not until he started shaking our hands and saying, “Congratulations, you reached the peak of Mt. Apo!”


We succumbed to the beauty of Mt. Apo. We took pictures and videos of the exhilarating view. After our high moment, we had geocache hunting. We need to look for it within the 10 meter radius. If we saw it, we can write something in the notebook and leave things with sentimental value and get something from the box as well. So we’re off for a treasure hunt! It was Allan who saw it under a big rock. We wrote our emotional messages and left some things which need not to be with us as we go home. To be full, we need to be empty. We let go of our negativity and looked forward to whatever tomorrow brings.Then, we started our descend.I looked at the trekking pole I am holding. Of all others, this is the most significant thing to me in the journey. As I was searching through the meaning of a trekking pole, I came across MacNamara and Nale’s (2014) reasons for trekking poles.

  1. Trekking poles, like ski poles, allow your arms to help propel you forward and upward. Whether walking on flat ground or up steep hills, poles can help to increase your average speed.
  2. Poles reduce the impact on your legs, knees, ankles, and feet.
  3. Trekking poles can be used to deflect backcountry nuisances. They can push away thorny blackberries and swipe away spider webs that cross trail.
  4. Walking with poles can help you establish and maintain a consistent rhythm, which can increase your speed.
  5. The extra two points of contact significantly increase your traction on slippery surfaces like mud, snow, and loose rock.
  6. Poles help you maintain balance in difficult terrain such as during river crossings, on tree root-strewn trails, and on slippery bog bridges. Staying balanced in turn helps you move more quickly and more easily.
  7. Poles can act as a probe to give you more information than you can get with you eyes.


God is our own trekking pole.The following are what God does in our lives. I remembered the times I was walking and leaving my pole, in frustration, I often snap it away, throw it first and becomes annoyed holding it. Despite it, I managed on holding on to my pole.

While we were in camp, realization hit me. The Grandfather had given his lesson. We are our own Mt. Apo. We stand tall, proud and unpredictable. Not everyone knows who we really not unless conquered. The hikers are the people we encountered in our daily lives. We draw attention. For every person who wish to know, we have put down our defences and shown who we really are. We don’t always look very welcoming just like Mt. Apo. We revealed our beauty and ugliness at the same time. We exposed our slopes, steeps, boulders and sulphur smelling attitudes. As a person, we promised a lot of things. Not all is a brave soul who dares to discover our very person. Some had tried but failed and left. Some had conquered but never returned. Yet there are just few who had had conquered and kept on going back. If you wish to like the person, admire the view and marvel its aesthetic aspects. But if you wish to love the person, discover its beauty, know its crevices, dullness and ugliness. The way in knowing a person’s true being is to discover and reveal even the muddiest, coldest and most dangerous parts hidden.

12 1

As we headed back to the foot of the mountain, Taylor Swifts song played on my mind. A song I felt was dedicated by Mt. Apo to us hikers. “ Someday when you leave me, I bet this memories follow you around…Say you’ll remember me…even just in your wildest dream.”


Drained of strength and energy, I bade you a blissful smile. Cheers to achieving one of my wildest dreams. Cheers to conquering Mt. Apo.


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Once Upon A Climb

April 9, 2015. We arrived at D’ Counter Inn where a night accommodation and free breakfast are included in the tour package. It’s just a few steps away from People’s Park of Davao City. Around 6:30 pm, we had the chance to meet our tour guide Albert Gabriel and had our briefing. First impression? He is very amiable and knows a lot about what he does. It’ll be my first longest hike and since I had no physical preparation before the climb, I had so many questions. He was able to address them and was able to assure me.



April 10, 2015. We woke up early to meet him and the other climbers in the agreed place where we can ride a bus. We reached Sta. Cruz around 6am. From there, motorcycles (habal-habal) were waiting for us. Before reaching the last town, we passed by the Mt. Apo Highlands.It was foggy and really cold there. And my ears were starting to tingle. So, I suggest you wear a jacket with a secured hood even with the strong wind.

We continued riding until we reached the last town where we had our breakfast and bought our take out lunch. By then, I’ve already noticed Roy, one of our porters. He has that positive disposition and he smiles a lot. He and the other guys are fond of teasing each other and joking around. Roy could make a joke out of something. I like him.


We then proceeded until we reached the foot of the mountain in Sibulan. Before you reach SitioColan, there would be a house near the trail. If you get lucky, a boy will greet you. In my case, this is his greeting: “I’m now 1 year old.” He doesn’t say his name. He prefers his age. LOL I hope you can give him a chocolate too.

After proximately 3.30 hours of hike (depending on your speed), you will see the White Trees (as I call it). They are covered with white lichens. Those were amazing because lichens are composite organisms that only grows in zero degree Sulphur Dioxide air pollution. Another 30 minutes of hike and you’ll see the Mystery Rocks (again, as I call it). It must be one big rock before. If you like abstract art, you can try this one. As for me, I saw the higher rocks forming two eyes looking down and a robotic nose. You might see another figure though. Another two hours and we reached Tinikaran Campsite 1. As my fellow climbers and Albert, our guide were discussing social issues and global issues, I was in the tent. I was so exhausted that I must be snoring! LOL At 5:30 pm, our dinner is almost cooked. I noticed how Roy and Cook George are very bonded. Such a brotherhood! Cook George made Sinigang. It was very good. His gentleness and his love for cooking reminds me of Kung Fu Panda I watched with my nieces. I started calling him “Papa George”.14x

April 11, 2015. After breakfast, we continued with our climb. Proximately 1.30 hours of hike, we reached the sulfuric area where the mountain emits smoke from the near distance. Just some minutes and the bouldering begun. Papa George cooked an awesome meal again. We had lunch around 12:30 pm. Before 2 pm, we reached the crater and had some photos there. After few minutes, we reached one of the summits nearest the Sta. Cruz trail. Before 3 pm, we reached the highest summit. Albert gave us a bit of treasure hunting game. Taylor Hobbs, the Canadian guy and Lilybeth Duran, the Austrian citizen Filipina found it. Four of us put something memorable there. There’s a small notebook to write your name as well. Some wrote quotes. I wrote a short story. But the wind was blowing hard at that time and the sun was hidden by the clouds, so I was writing with shaking hands. Before 4 pm, we went down to the campsite. It rained the other night,(I actually have wet jackets because the rain got inside near my head.) Thus, it’s not much of a surprise to know that the group before us got zero degree Celsius at the summit’s campsite.


Nighttime was approaching and the drop of temperature wasmore than I can tolerate. I had 2 T-shirts inside, 3 jackets, 2 thick knee-length socks, and 2 thick regular socks and still I was shivering. It was getting 4 degrees Celsius. Before dinner, we all gathered to Albert’s tent and had socialization time. Some drank beer/ rum. It seems to me that we disregarded personal spaces at that point. We started to come out of our shells, especially me, a reserved person. I spent some time to the crew’s tent too. I had such fun and we were laughing so hard about the jokes usually Roy would throw us. I enjoyed the simplicity of life with nature and good companions. I concluded it was truly a vacation.

April 12, 2015. The group went back to the summit for the sunrise photo. I climbed back late accompanied by Roy. I needed more coffee. I barely slept and I needed caffeine to make me survive the 1 day trekking down Mt. Apo. Around 8am, when everything was ready, we went down.15x

A vacation in Mt. Apo is a good choice. Nature has its way of giving positive energy. Nature can reset our biological clock. Nature can make us appreciate the simplicity of life. One of the good things is that we were with a superb tour guide Albert, who never pressured us with our speed. He checked on us making sure everybody is safe and having a fun journey. Albert is a good conversationalist too. What impressed me most with Albert is that he is engaged in humanitarian and indigenous activities like I do.


“ I came. I saw. I conquered.” You also will…


Article contributed by:

 Ms. Marisel Atam 

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Mt. Apo Scaled by Engineers from Holland,,,,


A group of young Engineers from Holland climb with us last February , 2015 which is our first time to be with most number of Dutch in one climb.

The climb only took two days which we were able to camp in the 87 degrees camp site on day one and reach the summit of Mt. Apo early morning the next day and experience sunrise.

During this climb , we took our lunch at Tinikaran Camp 1( halfway to the summit) and we reach the campsite around 3 PM in the afternoon with our porters an hour behind our arrival. The Dutch guys headed by Erik were awesomely fit and did the trek easily and enjoy the mountains view.

When we came down we used the center trail at the boulders part which has steep part but the view is quit nicer.

Around 2Pm we were able to reach the van area and enjoyed a couple of drinks and sing Kareoke before leaving back to Davao City.

These are some of the photos I took during this climb,,,







IMG_4452 (1)




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All End’s Up at the Summit ,,,,,


August is one of the rainy months in the Philippines , but still Mt. Apo can be scaled during this times as long as typhoon will not hit Davao City.



Last year , we have organized Four (4) groups to climb Mt. Apo using Three(3) different trails and all reach the summit on the same day.

The  1st group is composed of  guest s from Cebu, Manila and an Australian National James Carty who climbed the same a week ago via Sta. Cruz trail.This  1st group was via Talomo Trail headed by Jo Capapas as their head guide together with locals from the Sicao Village.



The 2nd group   which is from Manila  used the Sta. Cruz -Kidapawan Traverse trail with Roger Navarro and they arrived the summit on the 2nd day  of their trek but directly descended to Lake Venado to camp there.


The 3rd and 4th Group used the circumferential trail of Digos -Sta. Cruz Trail going in at Mainit trail head and exit at Baruring with guests from Bacolod, Negros and a French Paragliding instructor Oliver Faucon with his Family.



All these groups reach the summit on the same day , but the guys from Talomo side took the most number of days to reach the summit .


During this climb it was foggy in the afternoon at the summit so we did not enjoy the sunset. After dinner with rain started to drizzle for about 30 minutes  but on the next day , we are blessed  with clear view and enjoyed sunrise at the highest point in the country  overlooking the provinces around the mountain and its features.

All these climbs end up successfully with good experience and  without any harm to the guest and the guides….

Categories: Adventure, Mt. Apo, Tours, Trekking, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment