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.

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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,,,







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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….

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A German’s Quest for the 60th Summit in the World

Last October 11, 2014 I had the chance to climb with Markus Hogenschurz a German engineer whose passion of scaling every highest mountain in every country around the world .

On this climb , it was his 60th Summit and it was an honor to climb with a seasoned climber like him to the roof of the Philippines.

We started our day at 5AM with a bus ride for an hour and then tranfered to a chartered motorcycle up to the trail head in Baruring,,,,

On this climb ,I can say that this guy was really a fast trekker since arrive at the last village in Tumpis  for less than 45 minutes and then head straight to the jungle trail.

We had our lunch in Camp 1 around 11 AM and then continue to trek after few minutes.

On that same day we arrive at the boulders part around 1:30 pm in which we saw boulders face of Mt. Apo slowly covered with fogs.


We decided to camp in the 87degree campsite when we reach that part around 4PM since the weather was not really good and a chance of sunset was slim at that time.


Early in the morning , the mountain showed us his beauty by giving us good weather , and we ascend to the highest part of it with blue skies and majestic scenery.


On the center peak , Markus did some treasure hunting since there was a geocache on that area and he found it and signed his name on the small logbook.


After visiting some summits in the peak we go back to our camp site, had breakfast and head down for home.

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On our way back , we trekked the West side of the boulders to see a different view and it was nice since it was all clear and we can see the nice view of Davao City , Davao Gulf and some islands in it.

Climbing with a veteran outdoorsmen like Markus is really an honor and we were able to arrive back in Davao City   afternoon of October 12, 2014 safely.


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DoubleTraverse Via Sta. Cruz -Makilala Trail

Last October 11-14, 2012 we have the opportunity to trek with a group from ‘Climb Against Cancer” (CAC) who wants to conquer Mt. Apo and at the same time help the school children living the foot of the Mountain (Sitio Colan and Tumpis).

The group was headed by Ms. Shirley Sibuyo and Thirteen(13) of her outdoor colleagues joined the group.

Sharing School Supplies to the Children in Sitio Colan

Sharing School Supplies to the Children in Sitio Colan

Our adventure started in the afternoon on day 1 and arrived in sitio Colan around 4:30 PM and distributed the school supplies to the children there and proceed to Tumpis where we camp there for the night and will distribute the rest of the school supplies there morning the next day  and assault the summit .


Trekking the Boulders

In the afternoon we arrived at the summit but did not catch a  good sunset but Mt. Apo gave us a good sunrise and did some photo-ops for the memories,,,,


Sunrise @ the Center Peak

On our original plan we will Traverse to Kidapawan trail on our way down but on Day3 we saw Lake Venado full of water so its gonna be an knee deep muddy trail to cross it in order to set foot on the trail on the other side and at the same time it was rainy season. Marble river is a very tricky part of the trail since its on the last part and prone to flash floods specially if it rains in the afternoon.



Lake Venado Covered with Water

Due to the conditions and assessment of the situation we took the Makilala Trail instead and passed the Geothermal Plants reforestation project and hiked Mt. Zion (the Summit on the Western part with a white cross if your standing on the center peak of  Apo). Its almost 20 Km from summit to exit point with lush forest on the other side.


Viewing the the West Side of Mt. Apo


Summit of Mt. Zion

We reached the summit of Mt. Zion at around 2:30 PM and stop for a short rest and snack and enjoy the scenery at this part then went down to a small village called Sitio Makalangit where we are going to spend the night .


Descending from Mt. Zion

It was dark when we arrive the village and  everybody are exhausted , hungry but is in good shape. On the other side our host in village is very accommodating by offering us her house for us to stay instead of sleeping in our tents.

We enjoyed pasta for dinner and celebrated one of our guest Natal day at that night since it was also a Birthday climb.

The next day(Day4) , we resumed the trekking down to Brgy. New Israel for almost 5 hours , had our lunch along a small creek the arrived there at around 1:00PM did some sight seeing and play with the monkeys around then ride back to Davao City .

Home sweet home.

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Bundokverein Girls,,,,An Unforgetable Experience

Mt Apo, the Philippines’ highest, has been an elusive mountain for me and my travel buddy, Nadine. We have been planning to climb it since 2012. And beginning of 2014, we planned to climb it in January, our birthday month. But there was bad weather at that time in Mindanao so we had to cancel the trip. But after that cancellation, we made a promise to ourselves, before the year ends, we will climb Mt Apo together.

Less than three months later in April, we found ourselves in Davao City with our backpacks, trekking poles and ready hearts. And it was another adventure, both of us are going to remember for a lifetime.

We arrived in Davao city on Araw ng Kagitingan, April 9, interestingly exactly four years after our first camping trip in Caramoan. Albert met with us at 6pm in the D Counter dormitel to brief us on the three-day climb. After which we decided to buy last-minute items in Gaisano (raincoats, gloves).  Gaisano is a throwback mall with displays which made us feel we were in the 1970s. We had early Kilawin dinner and some drinks before calling it a night.

We woke up at 430am on the next day (April 10) in time for the 5 am pick up in the dormitel. Albert introduced us to Roy, our main guide. We then picked up the big group and departed for Kapatagan at around 6am. We arrived in Kapatagan Travelers’ Fastfood around 9am, bought our packed lunch and also had our breakfast there. We waited for the vegetable truck that will pick us up  and take us to Baruring, the jump off point. As we sat on the truck, I looked at the clouds and they looked promising (Been monitoring the weather report before going to Davao).  I have been praying for good weather for this climb since there was an incoming tropical depression and in the middle of April! This mountain has been elusive for so long that we kept the faith that it is time to reach the summit.

The first hour of the trek took us through traditional farmlands and small communities with natives who are probably used to the sight of backpack-laden climbers passing by. After an hour or so of walking through villages, we started our ascent in the jungle of Mt. Apo. This is the part where I felt the weight of my 12kg backpack and the lack of proper ramp training prior to this climb. After a while, my body adjusted and maintained a steady pace.

The vegetation became denser as we climbed further and our main guide Roy’s mood began to lighten up. He became talkative, introduced us to the creatures in the jungle and shared his many climbing experiences. He has already climbed Apo so many times, he lost count. When we reached the lunchbreak area, everyone welcomed the customary break. That is when I got to talk to most of the people in the big group who were with us. Our Bundokverein climbed with Kamandag Mountaineers.

Majority of the first day of the hike was mostly through dense jungle. I was amazed how huge the trees were and how dense the jungle was. Roy pointed us some unique tress endemic to the Mt. Apo National Park.  The weather was not so hot and there was even a slight drizzle in the afternoon. We arrived on the first campsite at around 3:30 in the afternoon. Nadine and I immediately pitched our tent and mingled with the jovial bunch of guides and cooks who have lots of stories to share. The cooks prepared a very delicious Sinigang na Baboy that night! A nice treat after more than five hours of uphill ascent. Salamat gyud!

We were told that the second day of the hike will be more challenging. And it included an 87-degree wall or was it 89-degrees?! But the scenery was worth every sweat. After an hour or so of trekking on the second day, boulders began to appear on the trail. As we reached a small dried-up creek, one of the guides told us that we are nearing the boulder section. And the sight of the boulders upon boulders amid sulfur vents, transported me to a different world…a different planet. Truly, Mt. Apo is a unique mountain with its out-of-this-world giant boulders and sulfuric terrain. With the two-hour or maybe three-hour of boulder trekking, we savored every bit of the adobo that the cooks prepared for lunch. Thank God, the weather cooperated with us on the second day, just enough shade but at the same time the sun would peek once in a while to show us blue skies amidst the glorious landscape.

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After lunch, boulder trekking resumed and we reached the old crater and rested there a bit. I remember how the mist floated on the surface of the lake… is truly a magical place. Felt so blessed to have reached a place, what only a few people (ok maybe a handful) have. This is a point in the trek where we literally paused and spent a moment to reflect.


After the crater lake, the summit was less than an hour away  (by walking of course). Our timing could not have been more perfect that as soon as we reached the second campsite and as soon as we pitched our tent, rain poured. Heavy rain poured that we were afraid, we are going to get soaked since water was going inside the tent already.

Since the rain did not stop until dinnertime, the “Kuyas” were nice enough to bring our food to our tent and we had a small pasta picnic inside the tent. And we also brushed our teeth (not inside the tent) but inside the vestibule amidst laughter.

We called it a night early because we will wake up early to catch the sunrise on the next day……. in the highest point in the country! After the heavy downpour the night before, I was not sure if we will see any sunrise. But God had a nice surprise for us, He blessed us with a very beautiful sunrise at the summit of Mt. Apo. We enjoyed the 360-degree view from the summit which showcased the silhouette of Samal Island, the nearby mountain ranges and the seemingly perfect cone of Mt. Matutum. So blessed.


The trek down on the third day means that we will cover the same distance we hiked up in the first two days in just one day. Going through the boulders again did not diminish their grandeur the second time around. But going down was quite a challenge for knees which have been subjected to two days of climbing already. We felt like we zoomed by the jungle part and arrived at our jump-off before sundown. Nadine and I saw a small church on our way down and offered a prayer of thanks to God for an awesome and safe climb. After drinking soda at the first sari-sari store at the foot of the Mt. Apo, Nadine and I headed to Baruring passing thru the communities again at dusk, singing a childhood song….It only takes a Spark.


Going up Mt. Apo is an experience we will always treasure until we are Omas (Grandma in Deutsch)…until our knees would not allow us to climb summits anymore……. Mt. Apo was definitely worth the wait and the challenge. Thank you Albert, Roy, Jun, Adel and the rest of the team! Grateful to God for this experience of a lifetime for Nadine and I.

Article and Photo by:  NIKKI LOU BAQUERIZA



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Cliché Lessons on Climbing Mt. Apo

87 degrees

The so-called 87 degrees

There will be bumps

Just like any other special day that one waits and longs for, our rendezvous with Mount Apo wasn’t without bumps. In fact, it was met with lots.

I almost missed my flight to Manila, which meant I would also miss the flight to Davao. J missed her flight back to work and had to pay for another ticket, so she was a little reluctant to spend more for the climb. The doctor wouldn’t give a medical clearance to R while Y and L almost ran out of time getting the results of their medical exams. Y had to be at a conference on the day of our departure to Davao. And the night before the climb, there was news of an encounter between the government troops and rebels somewhere in the vicinity of the mountain. Concerned people advised us not to go anymore.

But with persistence, everything was smoothed out. And fortunately, the encounter was nowhere nearby the trail we were taking so it was safe to climb.

Enjoy the ride

From the city, we boarded a bus to Digos. At the Digos-Kapatagan Road, we had to take habal-habal to the jump-off point at Sitio Baruring. The ride itself was already an adventure. Y and I rode together, with our backpacks propped up on each side of the motorcycle. I was sitting at the back and had nowhere to rest my feet. Throughout the journey, my legs were stretched, almost to their limit. Twice, when the motorcycle had to turn on curves, my left foot rubbed against the road. And at one point while we were on a steep descent, we kept on sliding to the front. Y was already almost standing to avoid sitting on my thigh because I have slid to her seat. Instead of getting fumed with our situation, we just laughed thinking about how funny we looked. We laughed so hard the driver got confused about what was happening behind him.


Have at least a Plan B. And be flexible

Our climb organizer, Albert, assigned the Kapatagan trail for us. It was the shortest trail, taking only three days. On the first day, we were only supposed to climb to Tinikaran Camp, summit on the next and spending the night at the summit camp and descend on the final day. Our flight was scheduled on the night of the last day and Albert was a little worried that we might miss it, with possible horrible traffic on the way back to the city due to some ongoing road constructions.

We followed the itinerary for the first day. But instead of camping near the summit on the second day, we climbed to the peak of Mt. Apo with only our packed lunch, water and some trail food. We spent the night in the same place so that for the third day, we had less distance to cover on the way down.

Just do it

I know some people will be frowning at us for not doing enough physical preparation for the climb. We are well aware that climbing is a serious matter, but we just couldn’t make time out from our jobs and studies. We only had time to play badminton for an hour in the afternoon and we knew it was barely enough.

We could have opted to postpone our trip until we’re already prepared. But we really wanted to climb on Valentine’s Day. And besides, we didn’t know when everyone of us would be available. So we went ahead.


The boulders trail.

 When the going gets tough, the tough gets going

 Yep, we weren’t prepared. So we had to pay the price. Even during the start of the trek, when the terrain was still rolling, we were already languishing, lagging behind our guides. So imagine our faces when we saw the steep slopes we had to climb once we entered the mossy forest.

Aside from the steep climb, the ground was wet and at times muddy and slippery. Climbing was also like an obstacle course due to the many dead tree trunks blocking the trail. We either had to climb over or go under those trunks to get through. When we reached the camp, we were so tired that we just sat there and didn’t assist our guides in setting up.

On the second day, it was the same at the first part of the trail, with slippery slopes in the forest, although it seemed much steeper. Once we got out of the forest, we were greeted by huge boulders and the smell of rotting eggs due to a nearby solfatara. While we were climbing the boulders, the wind would sometimes blow to our direction, carrying with it the volcanic gases. My eyes would hurt a little when that happened.


 I might have an advantage over the others with my long legs, making it easier for me to hop from one boulder to another. So I asked our guide if it was okay for me to go ahead. He gave me the go signal. Following the poles with yellow ribbons serving as trail marks, I reached a flatter area near the foot of ’87 degrees’ and decided to wait for the rest of the group. I passed time picking more wild berries which I had been nibbling since early in the morning.

 They arrived in no time and we had our lunch before going to the peak. The ’87 degrees’ looked really steep. And while staring at it, I was wondering if they were kidding us when they said that it was the way to the summit. Apparently, they were serious. I found out while climbing that it wasn’t actually as difficult as it looked. And all of us reached the summit, after six hours.

 Our group may be slow, but we never stopped. And we made it.

Hold on to the things that matter

We started our summit assault at half past seven in the morning. We’ve already walked for about 10 minutes when I realized that I forgot Ngyaw in our tent. I had to go back. Even if I get to the summit, my experience wouldn’t be complete without the cat.


The cat at the peak of Mt. Apo.

 When I rejoined the group, it was Roy, our guide who then started going back to the camp. He may have realized that our group moves tremendously slow and it might already be dark when we get back. We didn’t bring our headlamps with us because we thought that without our heavy backpacks, the climb will be easier.

 But Roy’s intuition and assessment of our group was right. He may never admit it, but we’re probably the slowest group that he has accompanied in the mountain. It took us six hours just to reach the summit. And although we were much faster going down, it was already evening when we reached the camp. Good thing Roy thought of getting our headlamps that we didn’t think of bringing.

On the way up, he told us stories of couples who ended up fighting while climbing the mountain. Apparently, there were some guys who don’t know how to be a gentleman. Or whose only goal was to reach the peak, with or without their girl. Or those who acted more girly than their girlfriends.

Guys, hold on to the things that matter.

IMG_2648  Actually, what I really meant was on very steep slopes, hold on to the trees, their roots, the stems, those things. Use them to pull yourself up and to prevent you from slipping. Our late afternoon badminton games, it seemed, was not without use.


You can’t get everything you want. But still count your blessings

One of the things I look forward to when climbing mountains is being able to watch the sunset and/or sunrise from the peak. Since we had to change our itinerary, we would be at the peak in the early afternoon. That was okay, we would have a grand view at the peak right? Wrong. It was too cloudy that we couldn’t see anything from the top.


Going down. The clouds decided to part for a moment to give us a glimpse of the landscape.

 Our guide told us that the mountains get covered with clouds if the climbers make a lot of noise. So we kept our mouths shut, hoping that the views would clear up. Every time someone made a sound, she would be shh-ed. We waited. And waited. And waited a little more. Until it was time to leave because it was still a long way down and it was getting late.

 Was I disappointed? Definitely not a bit. Despite the clouds and the slight drizzle during the first day, it didn’t rain while we were walking. We got there and back safely. And most of all, we accomplished our main goal, which is to reach the peak of Mt. Apo.

 But still, I want to go back. For the sunrise. For the sunset. Some guys have proposed to their significant other at the peak of Mt. Apo. To my future special someone (if ever you exist), there’s an idea.


 What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

We were running out of drinking water on our way back to the camp from the summit. It was still a long way down. Our guide asked us if we wanted water. We said yes and he started climbing a huge boulder. It rained the night before and puddles of water accumulated on depressions on top of rocks.

We were a little hesitant to drink it, fearing for our stomach. But we were also thirsty. The water tasted like a much diluted iced tea. It wasn’t that bad. And no one got sick.

Eat the berries

Okay, it’s obviously not a life lesson. But yes, try the wild berries that are scattered in the boulders area. But avoid eating those that are near the solfatara.

Article and Photo by:  EMMANUELLE  VILLAFLOR


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A French Actor’s Impression….


“In the middle of the journey of my life

I found myself lost in a dark forest

And I had lost the right path…

Oooooh, how could I describe this wild, thick and bitter place?

…but, in fact there, after many ordeals, I found  Goodness, Beauty and the love of my life… “

Dante Alighieri, The divine comedy, beginning of the 14th century

My dear Albert, as we where shivering with cold on the slopes of mount Apo, I made you the promise to write a few words about our fabulous expedition in august 2013, trying to reach the top of the skull of grandfather Apo. Skull which is watching the Filipino people with a lot of love, and also full of compassion for them when terrible events happen as the recent typhoon.

Now, in the Parisian winter, I remember these sacred days with you, my son and the other brave men of our trek, including our powerful porters.

As you may know, in his famous poem, “the Divine Comedy”,  Dante, completely lost in the forest of life, found a guide and a friend in the person of Virgil, an other poet, devoted and careful.

Needless to say, my dear Albert, that there on the Mt.Apo, for all the lost souls we were, you were our Virgil. You always did the best for everyone, giving us confidence and force, including the preparation of the best pork adobo I ever tasted, non mentioning your delicious hot choco.

I invite all the readers of these few lines the adventure of climbing Mount Apo. It’s an unique experience, and whatever is the weather.At the end of August, we were not very lucky with it, some rain, some cold,and quite cloudy…but what we lost in the celebration of the sun, we won it in engaging ourselves in a strange world made out of subtle variations of white and gray clouds, dark blue,   and yellow (the sulfur). And not an easy world.Climbing up and down the boulders is a good challenge for who wants to test the agility and reactivity of his legs in a beautiful desolated landscape.

As far as I am concerned, I had drunk a good quantity of Korean sake the days before and a few shots of  Tanduay and I can assure you that climbing the boulders are the best medicine ever made against hangover. It’s always a joy to realize that the human being has a lot of capacity to react against adversity.


Best Companies on this Climb,,,

What a strong feeling we had when arrived on the top! It was another world,  , we were not happy with the weather but   we could feel the mystery and the wildness of the creation. And the spirit of grandfather Apo was there encouraging us to cope with reality and vivifying our minds and souls, 3000 meters above the level of the sea. God has spoken to Moses at the top of Mount Sinaï, and here, surrounded by mystical clouds, we could almost hear  old Apo whispering to our ears words of wisdom : enjoy life, little human being! And be brave and good with other people,  don’t forget that  your existence on this earth will end like the flight of the seagull! So do not deny the mystery of Grandfather Apo and all the transcendental forces!


A great adventure also was the climb down during the night time. two hours of fun with flashlight with some surprise at each step :bats, roots, holes, mud, fallen rotten jungle trees to climb up…Disneyland would never propose that!


Eventually, the great joy for me in this amazing trek was to see how my son “Jules” lived all that. In the urban life, he is a discreet, shy, nice and, I may say, quite reserved chap. Grandfather Apo gave him wings, he didn’t climb up or down, he just flied in his blue raincoat and his face turned into a angel face. How amazed I was! Me, an old man full of sins had created such a wonderful bluebird? But what is from flesh is from flesh, and what is from spirit is spirit!


 At the end of this letter, my dear Alb, I would like to thank all my Filipino friends who have supported my bad temper during this initiatic travel and also the sun which has welcomed us at the end of the trek. Excuse me also, dear reader, for my poor parisian English. I can only recommend you to experience the climb of Grandfather Apo, He will give you what you ask…

Article written by:     Michel Sigalla…..French, Actor

Adventure Date: August 24-26, 2013

Compliments to my Climb Buddies:  Jules Sigalla, Michael & Jonathan Joson


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An Australian Article : My Mt. Apo Experience,,,,


I am a 58 year old Australian who found Albert Gabriel from a google search of climbing Mt Apo. I have just completed a 3 day climb of Mt.Apo and I have to say I am delighted at how well the climb was organised and I am happy to say I had an unforgettable experience. The varied terrain and the explanations by our guide along the way were all key parts of the overall experience.


Together with my Singaporean Climb Buddies

On the first day we climbed to our camp for the night through a variety of terrain on a rougher track than I expected. The second day was quite challenging as we climbed to the summit through jungle then the boulder field. The return to our camp was not easy either! The scenery was spectacular and our guide made it more interesting by pointing out interesting features along the way.



On the third day we came down to the start point and returned to Davao City. I have done a lot of trekking and I would have to rate the Mt.Apo experience as much more interesting than comparable climbs I have done including the very popular Fancipan inVietnam.


My companion Stanley had a swim @ the Old Crater


In The Summit with our Guide Albert

This is an outdoor experience I would recommend to anyone seeking a challenging and interesting varied experience in nature at its best.

Colin Weekes, Sydney Australia

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