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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Tracing the Roots: A journey to Mt.Apo



I’ve been blessed to be a part of a friendship that values the beauty and wonders of our motherland; to have the audacity to experience that thrills she can offer. Team masaya as we call ourselves have already visited most parts of the Philippines.
One experience we will never forget is embarking to a journey to meet the grandfather of all mountains and volcanoes, Mt. Apo

Situated in Davao del Sur, Mt. Apo, stands on his grandeur with an elevation of 10,311 feet above sea level. Being a dormant volcano, it gave birth to enchanting jungles, majestic boulders, serene lakes and springs thus becoming a dream destination for mountainers and adventurous individuals.

We were fetched by Sir Albert in our hotel to meet our lead guide Roy. We took an fx and then transferred to a habal habal – a local term for motorcycles for rent, were it will take us to Kapatagan and jump-off area

Our sojourn began at sitio baruring. Accompanied by Roy, our lead, guide, Jimboy, Jerry and Arnie our porters we headed to the foot of the moutain, passing thru a village wherein we are welcomed by the warm smiles of the villagers, and lush grassland and vegetation.

As we went deep into the forest, we began to unravel the beauty of its flora. There are a lot of wild berries, ferns and trees growing freely at the area. We didn’t get the chance to see much of its fauna, (no sighting of wild monkey) but this doesn’t reduce the excitement that we feel as we trek. We get to hop on large tree trunks, rappel on small branches and gnarled roots and parkour.

It was a long walk, making us famished and tired. We took our lunch at Tumpis and made several stops to rest while enjoying the cool weather and scenery.

We reached camp 1 an hour earlier. Exhausted, but happy, we started to imagine what would it be like the next day. We were told that tomorrow’s trek will be a lot difficult. It feels like opening a pandora’s box, elevating the risk and difficulty of the climb, but knowing that there’s hope of a safer journey with the help of our trusted guides. Hope to reach the peak and blow a good night kiss and greet a warm hello to the sun.

Dinner was served early; it’s was a long slumber for us.

We woke up around five in the morning. After breakfast, we sauntered, exciting through the woods. As the trees and plants go fewer, we knew that we are nearing the boulders.

The boulder area is like a man’s heartbeat. You won’t hear it if you don’t go near to a man’s chest and listen. As we touched the sulphuric ground, climbed enormous rocks and felt the heat gushing out from within, we knew how alive Mt. Apo is.

We passed thru Gabroq E- Camp and took few take 5 at Botoy’s ridge. We got a glimpse of what the crater, where a small lake formed after its second eruption. As we rambled thru the summit, the surrounding gets colder and foggier.

We settled at the second camp around 2:00pm. Again we arrived early at the site. Rejoicing that we get to experienced sunset, somthing expected happened.

It rained! It became a storm-like weather and the wind almost blew the cover of our tent. Water is seeping inside the tent. It was still a fun experience for us though. We’ve been laughing and giggling as we figure out how to keep the water out and make the tent withstand the weather.

Our guides became our parents that night. Aside from cooking our food, they took turns in checking our tent during times that wind is blowing very hard.

It was a colder and longer night for us. We slept with high hopes to see the sunrise

Luck didnt pave its way the following day. Perhaps due to the rain yesterday, the summit was enveloped with fog. What we witnessed is only a silhoutte of sunrise.

We ate our breakfast feeling disappointed. Afterwards we started packing. We will be doing a two-days worth of trekking in just a day going down the mountain.

Our lead guide took another chance on ascending to another peak. We didn’t know that this was an early Christmas present for us: A 360 degree view at Mt. Apo’s peak.

Very much elated, we spent few minutes taking pictures (with jump shots of course)

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” – we are in cloud 9.

We then started trekking our way home. The pace became slower, yet the spirit is still high. We been throwing jokes, chatting and singing songs to forget how tiring it is.

It was already dusk when we reached the village. We rested for a while, then started walking again to the jump-off area. We rode our way to kapatagn via habal-habal where a van that would take us to the city is waiting.

As we tucked ourselves in our cozy beds inside the hotel, we knew that this one of the many experiences that we will never forget.

Photo By : Jeremy Leung

Article by: Maricris Lim (Macre)

Compliment to Team Masaya: Jeremy Leung, Joy Anne Leung, Ma. Cristina Dacillo and Maricris Lim 

Adventure Date: November 18-20, 2013


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Late Summer Traverse with Two Ladies


Summer is closing in, and rainy season is nearly coming …..this is the time when we had two lady guest who climb  Mt. Apo using the Sta. Cruz-Kidapawan Traverse Trail last May 18-20 2013. They were Ms. Anne Karen dela Cerna(Yayen) , a nurse in a hospital and research center the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ms. Erika Tabunar a student  in UP Diliman.

Our climb took 3 days spending our first night in Camp1 in Sta. Cruz side traversing to lake Venado passing the boulders and summit. Then, we pitch our tent near the lake where Yayen had her shower( around 7:00PM in the evening) in the freezing cold water from the lake (the 1st time I saw who did it).

In three days, we manage to reach Lake Agco around 5:00 PM passing Koo-ong trail and Mable River, enough to give us time to enjoy the hot spring and and arrived in Davao City safely that night.

Here are some photos we had ,,,,with this two physically fit gorgeous ladies,,,





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4 Ladies, A Diver and Mt. Apo

A week after the Lenten Climb 2013, I went back to Mt. Apo with 4 gorgeous Ladies  and a skin diver using Sta. Cruz  Trail.

My guests were 2 British  Naomi Victoria ,Chalotte Boyer , Niamh Ui Fhaolain(Irish) who work as Physiotherapist in Singapore and Mayette( Balikbayan from Canada) and Carlo Castro who loves to dive the ocean without any oxygen tank.

On this climb we managed to reach the summit around 1:30PM on the 2nd day for my companions were as able as my men when they trek and really loves outdoors and its beautiful features.

The mountain gave us good weather and let us experience the beauty of sunset and amazing sunrise which makes my guests feel very close to nature…..

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Lenten Climb 2013

During this  Years Holy week (March 28-31, 2013) , we have two handsome young German Climber guests (Andreas Hoecherl and Simon Nussstein ) who works as volunteers for the school children in Tondo , Maynila.

Our climb lasted for 3 days in which we were climbing with more than a thousand climbers who also likes to spend their  long vacation in the summit.

It was nice that we had a very good weather on this climb for we enjoyed and experienced a good sunset and sunrise and meet some old friends in the highest part of the country talking about our adventures under clear sky.

Here are some of our shots ,,,,,,

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Just A Proposal Climb

On the First week of March , I had a call from a guy in the person of Jan Israel Samaniego (Ish) who wants climb Mt. Apo together with Seven(7) of his friends and later informed me that this is a very special climb for him for he is going to propose to his girlfriend Jen(Jenny Lyn Quilala) during sunrise at the center peak  in which the later has no idea about his plan.

As for me and my crew, we are also excited on this climb for its seldom to experience this kind of event in which you have to make an enduring Two days ascend to the highest point of the country to make a wedding proposal to your love one,,,,,Its a very unique act of  love and devotion ,,,,,,

Luckily , Ish’s plan worked very well , and on March 17, 2013 at exactly 5:33 AM  it was a perfect  timing when he gave the engagement ring to Jen in the center peak  with a beautiful sunrise as a back draft,,,then tears of  joy , clicking of the cameras and clapping of hands happened and we congratulate the couple,,,

On this Three Days climb (March 15-17,2013), we took the Sta. Cruz-Kidapawan Traverse Trail Passing the boulders , camping at the summit, having lunch @ Lake Venado then down to lake Agco passing Ko-ong trail and Marble river where we stayed for the night and diiping to the hotsprings,,,,

Together with their Friends who witnessed the Proposal

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Valentines Climb with Nancy & Mark

The Month of February signifies the Month of the Heart and its 14th date is the best day of that season to be with the people you care about.

Luckily, we had a guest that would like to celebrate Valentines day in a different way,,,,and its in the summit of Mt. Apo watching its sun rises.

The couple were Ms. Nancy  Distor , a  Filipina who works in Dubai and American Mark Micallef who works in an airbase in Afgahnistan.

On this adventure , we have four days and three  nights time budget ,enough for us to experience most of Mt. Apo’s features in which we did not expect that Ms. Nancy could endure since she was a first timer on the outdoors. To our surprise , she manages to do the trekking from the base camp to the summit in a days trek and same as going down the 14 Km. descend from the summit to lake Agco passing lake Venado  via Ko-ong trail and Marble River in which Mark could not believe, but she did it.

I have a great adventure with this couple and here are some of  the  photos taken on Valentines day ,,,,,

Zip Line @ Camp Sabros

Visiting the Majestic Tudaya Falls

Sunrise @ Tumpis Base Camp

Passing the Sulfur Vents and the Boulders

Trekking at Butoy’s Ridge on the way to the Summit

Reaching Cabo’s Peak

Sunset @ the Summit

Early Morning @ the Center Peak( Apo’s Highest Point)

On the Way to Lake Venado

On the Way to Ko-ong trail

Giant Romblon on the way to Marble River

River Crossing @ Marble River

Visiting Lake Agco

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NEXT’s First Expedition Climb to Mt. Apo

On the 31st of January 2013, a group mountaineers from Nature Explorers of Tarlac (NEXT) made an great  journey to the highest point of the Philippines.

This group of Forteen (14)  young at heart professionals are from the  Catholic Church,Engineering, Archetectural , Medical, Info. Tech and Business field based in Tarlac who loves the outdoors and spearheaded by Engr. Ed Tañedo.

The climb took 3 days and 2 nights using Sta. Cruz Trail and utilizes Tinikaran Camp 1 as their Base camp which they arrive in the afternoon on Day 1 after an enduring farm and narrow jungle trail. On the 2nd day the group reach the summit of Mt. Apo around noon time which gives them the majestic view of the boulders and whats below it which makes the whole group became emotional for they could not believe that they have fulfilled their long dream which is to stand on the highest point in the Philippines(every Filipino Mountaineers Dream) and then tears of joy starts to flow on their cheeks showing an unimaginable happiness after two days of endurance.

After few minutes Father Jess Gragasin offered a Prayer thanking God for the success and safety  of the whole group then we head to the old crater for lunch and proceed back to the camp site and continue descending to the jump-off area on the 3rd day and back in Davao City safely.

During this climb , the group also accomplished  discovering Mt. Apo’s lowest summit, the Melvin’s Summit( 2,589 MASL) named after one member of the group who manage to reach that point passing Butoy’s Ridge given with his physical condition.

Here are some photos taken on this Climb,,,


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