Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Somewhere on September 2004 in the middle of implementation of a European Union-funded project called Upland Development Programme (UDP) in Southern Mindanao where Sta. Cruz was one of the project beneficiaries, the UDP had commissioned a Davao-based Non-Government Organization PCEEM (People Collaborating for Environmental and Economic Management in Davao Foundation, Inc.) to conduct a survey of Mt. Sibulan relative to its environmental component program. The survey was an initial step for a more comprehensive forest protection and rehabilitation program as envisioned by UDP, where remaining forest had to be strictly protected through policy formulation and implementation.

As the lead implementer of UDP in the local government level, I joined the climb along with some other LGU personnel from different offices. The climb enabled us to personally see the pristine environment of Mt. Sibulan, the infinite flows of Sibulan River and the virgin forest of the mountain range which was marked by the presence of assorted flora and fauna. Indeed, Mt. Sibulan is one of the few remaining unspoiled forest areas in Sta. Cruz.

We spent our first day at the then infamous Barangay of Tibolo, perhaps considered by our guides as the most accessible entry point to our target forest destinations. We passed through the hostile route from Lower Tibolo all the way to the Tibolo-Sibulan border (now part of the Boulder Face Challenge route), although we already started gathering route and point coordinates through our GPS equipment. Tibolo and Sibulan are separated by a small stream, a tributary of Sibulan River. As barangay authorities told, Tibolo was just a sitio part of Barangay Sibulan before it was created as a separate barangay unit.

We enjoyed trekking the trail highlighted by vertical clips, steep terrain and muddy jungle. Our next overnight stop was sitio Landig 1 of Sibulan where we stayed at a house of one of the guides. As we were served by a soothing native coffee of the Bagobo tribe, we took time to familiarize Landig1, including all the surrounding mountainscape visible in the place. The guide’s house was actually the highest point in the sitio, that’s why we were able to witness the very beautiful scenery brought about by the fine late afternoon weather. The panoramas included Davao Gulf, the District of Toril and the towering Mt. Apo in the north point.

On our third day, we continued the survey to three more sitios including Gurem, Landig 2 and Dariango. Even with the assistance of local folks as guides, we still found it very hard to locate sitio boundaries due to the very thick forest vegetation. My friend from PCEEM was even stung by a super bee while reading a GPS coordinate.  The other guide suffered cramps as we tried to overcome a very steep trail when we traversed from sitio Landig to Gurem. We were also able to witness several wild pig foot prints along the way, proof that the forest was still unblemished. Truly, these mountain ranges deserve special conservation efforts.

Just before we headed to Barangay Sibulan Proper, we took time to rest at a bamboo foot bridge of Sibulan river, a border point between Landig and sitio Tungcaling. That was a decade ago and Sibulan River was still really very captivating. The strong rapids were evident as it cascaded downstream amidst huge rock formations of the river. The river perimeter was also manicured with the tall and green trees.

Ten years ago, Sibulan was still a quite place where only the chirping of birds and sekadas prevails and the sound of river current outmaneuvering the temptation of commercial destruction. It was the time when local folks communicated their neighbors with a scream of their mouths and not the disturbing ring tones of cellular phones. It was the time when people in the mountain still prefer horse-aided transportation over the gasoline-filled jeepneys and other types of vehicles. It was the time when Bagobo tribe was original, not a simulation.

Truly, gone are those days. Sibulan now is slowly but surely changing its identity. With the sprouting of industrial interventions in the place, the forest that we surveyed before had already been part of the collateral damages and I think there is something more to come similar to that. The upstream portion of Sibulan River is no longer attractive. The forest cover in Landig, Gurem and Dariango is in danger and severe threat.

The survey climb by PCEEM is one of the many climbs I considered very important to my life. Although personally I cannot directly effect the desires that I wanted especially in conservation and protection of the area, I am still thankful that I was one of the few mountaineers who have witnessed Mt. Sibulan and Tibolo in its flawless state.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How running transformed the life of a vegetable vendor’s son

By Julius R. Paner

For Elmer Bartolo, running is synonymous to life. This native of Barangay Talandang in Tugbok District of Davao City, who had been in the frontage of so many tabloids and magazines because of his running brilliance all over the Philippines, has considered running as a way to escape from the outskirts of economic and social dearth. 
I was very fortunate to have partly witnessed him chasing his big dreams being purely cuddled by life’s pains and sufferings of poverty. That was more than a decade ago when I also dealt my own version of struggles in life. And I am glad to have revisited Barangay Talandang just last week to see some changes in the place, including my old friends and of course, this friend who I incidentally met last 2012 while also joining an organized run in Davao City.

During the 37th National Milo Marathon Davao City Qualifying Round where he won second place 
 “After graduating in high school I tried my luck working in Manila in a certain mechanical shop. Much as I wanted to, I could not afford to finish studying in college because I had to look over my siblings’ needs. My parents could not bear all of them that’s why I had to do my share,” said this humble national-caliber athlete. “Life had not been too good in Manila as well, that’s why I returned home with nothing to settle to except keeping myself hyper by playing basketball in the barrio”. Elmer also continued helping his parents selling vegetables in Davao City, their only source of income, after his return to Davao.

It was year 2008 when Elmer finally got a crack at a sports called running. Carrying his experience as a track and field athlete in high school days competing for 100, 200 and 500 meter dashes; he ruled the 2008 Sinulog half-marathon in Cebu with a whopping record of 1:10:20. With such a memorable run, organizers of the Sinulog Half Marathon officially declared him the Philippine record holder for 21K run. The next two weeks after that Sinulog victory, Bartolo continued his domination in the 21K by winning again two straight runs in Cebu.

2008 Sinulog Half Marathon in Cebu City
“What I like about Cebu is that they organized running competition almost every week. It actually opened so many opportunities for us runners to earn a living because they also offered bigger cash prizes,” Bartolo revealed. Seeing something entirely different in a place they call “Queen City of the South”, he decided to stay in Cebu for three years for one main purpose, living through running. Apart from the competitions in Cebu, Bartolo also dominated several footraces in the Visayas, including the 2009 Milo Marathon in Dumaguete where he was hailed champion in 21K category.

With utmost curiosity, I asked this fellow about his secrets in running. “Constant practice, proper nutrition and relaxation,” he said. “While we runners recognize the importance of having physical preparation in joining a running event, it is also important to give our bodies enough time to relax. In a way, we will gain strength physically and mentally. Also, we need to sleep in time and take appropriate diet.”

Bartolo is shown here trying to elude a competitor which he eventually did just before the finish line 
After his stint in Cebu, he came back to Davao for good. “Running in Davao was quite good also especially in 2011 where organizers had staged a lot of competitions,” said Bartolo who ruled numerous runs like Run with the Masters, City High Run, Run for the Athletes, Merco Anniversary Run among others. And in his quest to explore another field of running, he joined the International Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge, one of the most extreme adventure races in the country with three disciplines in mountain biking, running (trail and road) and water tubing.

(Above) Bartolo joining the tough Boulder Face Challenge. (Below) Showing his Finisher's Medal 
 “Boulder Face Challenge is perhaps one of the hardest competitions I have ever joined. It was very difficult climbing Mt. Apo in a 24-hour time, especially the other discipline (water tubing) which I am not used to do, maneuvering in a strong river current for more than an hour.” In his second try of the race, Bartolo and his teammate made it to the 4th spot.

His collection of medals
When I asked him about what’s the best thing that running has given him, he told me he really grew more as a disciplined person. According to him, the best thing to become a consistent runner is to have self-discipline; diet control, no alcohol intake and the likes, no cigarettes and the likes, and fervent prayers. Bartolo also takes pride of his new house, which, according to him built in six years time from the earnings he got in running.

Elmer Bartolo showing his newly-built house in Tugbok District
Bartolo further stressed that when time comes that he can no longer run, he will be happy and proud to tell his kids about the experience he got while running and the benefits he obtained out of it, not just the economic side but eventually the overall transformation of his personality.

Bartolo with this blogger
At 32 years old, Bartolo said he still doesn’t feel any signs of body problems. “My knees are still supple and strong. My upper body can still compete that’s why I still have to go on with this lifestyle.” Of course, this good friend of mine still thought of himself having slowed down a little bit because of his age. “There are lot of great young athletes sprouting now especially in Davao City. When I joined the 37th Milo National Finals in Manila, I saw so many fast runners. These guys are great and still have a long way to go. But for as long as I can compete, I promise to be just behind their backs and if they tend to be complacent, maybe I will be able to overtake them before they can take their final steps to the finish line,” Bartolo concluded in a casual and humorous mode.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Team LOGSAC rules MFSM’s 1st Berghaus Orienteering Competition

The trio of Romil Duhaylungsod, Ian Duhaylungsod and Julius Biala of Team LOGSAC ruled the 1st Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao (MFSM) Orienteering Competition held on January 12, 2014 at Mulan Beach Resort, Toril, Davao City. After completing a dozen of tricky stations, the team came out victorious, beating other contestants which included other MFSM affiliated club members. Team HADAMS and Team MOKSAI settled for second and third place, respectively.

The first ever Orienteering  competition was part of the many activities by MFSM in time for its 10th Founding Anniversary as a group created by the Department of Tourism as its adventure arm. Prizes of the competition were solely sponsored by Berghaus that included an array of new adventure backpacks.

The 10th MFSM anniversary was participated by more or less 40 clubs from all over Region XI. LOGSAC has sent a total of 26 participants comprising old and new members.

“As we are moving into the next decade of existence, I would like to give this challenge to all mountaineers to always adhere to responsible mountaineering. Let us all work hand in hand to sustain this group,” said Jun Bacus, the event coordinator and newly-installed MFSM President. He will be leading MFSM once again in the next two years.

Meanwhile, aside from capturing the orienteering championship prize, there are other several citations received by LOGSAC during the event including the following: Most Outstanding Club of 2013 and Most Outstanding Club President cited to LOGSAC President Julius R. Paner. Also, five members of LOGSAC received the citation of Most Outstanding Club Members namely: Danrev Broñola, John Jay Cuizon, Jonas Florencondia, Glenn Gonzales and Faridah Lumpapac.

Other events that were undertaken during the 10th anniversary celebration are as follows: Advance Photography Workshop by Award-winning Photographer Roland Jumawan, Fellowship Night, Reggae Party, Basic Mountaineering Course and Renewal of Club Membership.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Partying a different experience at The Venue Party Boat

After welcoming a group of Korean delegation at the Davao International Airport last Saturday, January 4, 2014; my officemates and friends decided to take an unusual weekend trip to one of Davao’s promising party destination, The Venue Party Boat located at Sasa Wharf.

It was a unique experience then as we were treated with an exclusive party within the huge Davao Gulf, our first time to experience such. The Venue Party Boat is the only recreation site in Mindanao where it features distinctive entertainment inside a Roll-On/Roll-Off vessel with Davao City’s amazing cityscape in the evening and the alluring Samal Islands as our backdrops. 
At an individual rate of 350 pesos per person, we got a dose of “pika-pika” and drinks during the entire navigation period with an entertainment provided by one of Davao’s stand up comedians. The cool and soothing ambiance of Davao Gulf was very relaxing while we enjoyed the very clear evening skies. Some resorts in Samal could be seen such as Sunset Beach Park, Blue Jazz Resort and Paradise Island, among others.

For those who want to party with a unique night life, I recommend The Venue Party Boat to be a great experience everyone should try while staying in Davao. They can be visited for bookings at SM City Davao, Ecoland. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

LOGSAC trio’s G2 attempt

Just before 2013 ends, the formidable LOGSAC trio of Danrev Broñola, Irvhin Joy Alcoriza and Noel Bartolome has climbed one of Luzon’s dangerous mountains and  probably one of the toughest in the country – Mt. Guiting-guiting or popularly known as G2 last December 27-28, 2013 via Tampayan Trail.

“It was very hard climbing a very technical mountain in a rainy season,” said Irvhin Joy as they were welcomed by a strong rain on the first day. “One of the hardest experiences we had was the very long travel from Batangas port to Sibuyan Island where it took us almost 13 hours.” There was also a last-minute change of mountain guide that further delayed the climb. Then with the rain cuddling them, they had to detour to another track to avoid a river trekking that could have cause them another dilemma had they pushes through.

Like any other climbers attempting G2 on a rainy day, all they could do was to stay not beyond Camp 3. They reached this campsite at exactly 9:00 in the evening. As Irvhin Joy would put it, “we sacrificed a lot because of the rain and the night trekking.”

“Practically, the assault to the summit on the next day would be very difficult especially with the trail from Mayo’s Peak to the Knife Edge was very slippery,” said Irvhin. Instead of pushing through, the guide decided to descend the next morning back to the trail head.

Definitely this climb is one of the very few failed climbs of LOGSAC, or shall we say not being able to reach the summit of a certain mountain. However, Irvhin Joy said they would not stop chasing this mountain summit, as it would be very rewarding to really make it all the way to it in the future.

G2 is located in Sibuyan Island in Romblon, and is standing 2,085 meters above sea level. It is well-known for its being very difficult to climb, featuring sharp rock formations and steep trails. With another point in the mountain called the Knife Edge, making it to the summit of this mountain is very hard. It takes a lot of physical preparation and courage, as well as with a blessing for a good weather.