Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge has gone a long way. From a mere local quadrathlon participated by only eight teams in 2008, it has now become an international event that captured the interest of international adventure racers and big-time partners.  As part of the organizing team, I am impressed with its world-class transformation. And with the eight challenge concluded just last April 26 this year, I am humbled by the fact that more and more organizations are looking at the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge as their future platform to the advocacy and causes they have been fighting for all through the years of their existence.

This year’s new partner is Global Impact, an NGO based in Davao City whose primary purpose is to fight human trafficking in the Philippines. Perennial co-operators continue to pour in resources also like the Aboitiz Power, San Miguel Brewery, Inc., Seaoil, Mountain Hardwear and Recreational Outdoor Exchange (ROX). And the support extended by National Government Agencies and barangay functionaries have made it more stable.

Meanwhile, long-time adventure racer Dexter Nonato of Team Tri-Buddies Tagum finally nailed down the championship trophy of the Open Elite category by clocking a total time of 12 hours, 56 minutes and 48 seconds; beating previous record set by Team Boatman last year. His partner is triathlete Juanito Mahinay. The duo convincingly outmanuevered last year’s second placer Team Wals (Jayrald Daraydo and Ireezbone Barrientos). Team Kaizo (Romeo Mascardo and Dioscoro Genunsalao) was at far third.

As the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge progresses, I have personally observed several myths insinuated by several groups and individuals in the outdoor adventure community. I have listed them one by one and come up with five of the most popular ideas that are practically no basis for truths and therefore are not worth believing.

5. Winning is certain. Just like an adage that goes, the only thing certain in this world is uncertainty itself. This is also applicable in this race. While defending champs of the previous years are heavy favorites to win the succeeding crown, defending the title in this extreme competition is not certain (so as losing). For the record since we started the long route with the summit as the turning point, no champion team had ever defended a crown. Jonathan Pido and Angelito Sibayan, Cresenciano Sabal and Gerald Sabal, Ronald Dagaang and Mario Ecalner, Mark Anthony Rance and April John Maniyog; these are previous champions who failed to defend their titles.

4. It is not worth joining for because Mindanao is not peaceful. We have been in huge existing for eight long years now, perhaps one of the longest-running adventure races in the country where the organizer is spearheaded by a local government. In 2012, we have attracted twelve foreign teams from as far as Australia, United States, Indonesia, Hongkong and Taiwan. This year, Global Impact teamed up with us despite the early Mamasapano encounter in Maguindanao and the massacre in our very own Sta. Cruz Police Station that killed 1 retired policeman and injured 3 others. Lastly, we have maintained an average participating team of 20, showing that the race has been successful in its attempt to develop a culture of peace in an island dubbed as war-zone.

3. The first to arrive in the finish line is the winning team. Boulder Face Challenge is a 24-hour extreme race which prompted more people to believe that the first to arrive in the finish line are automatically the winners. It, however, does not apply here. The race is not a usual triathlon or ultramarathon or a fun run. The accumulated time in the first two disciplines (mountain biking and trail running) will be added to the time consumed in the last two disciplines (water tubing and road running). After a series of strenuous trail running, the time will be cut off in the second transition point for the next day’s activities. Water tubing and road running command lesser energy as compared to mountain biking and trail running, and even if you arrive in the finish line because you manuever fast in water tubing and you run like hell in road running, winning is still not a guarantee. It still depends on how you perform in the mountain biking and trail running stages.

2. Arrival in Checkpoint 01 assures the racer to win the challenge. Time and time again, I have always warned Boulder Face Challenge racers that Checkpoint 01 (Gate1 of San Miguel Brewery, Darong) is not the finish line yet. If you arrive in this area few minutes late it does not follow that you will lose the game already. I have been manning this checkpoint ever since and the problem remains evident that racers thought they already won the game upon arrival in CP 1. It is just the first 13 kilometers of the 48-kilometer uphill biking in Sibulan and Tibolo which actually speaks for more trouble. Again, CP 1 is just CP 1, there are still 20 more CPs that need more focus from the racers. Records have it that all teams who arrived in CP earlier have lesser chances of winning the race.

1. Water Tubing is not a factor. If you think water tubing is not a factor to determine the winnability of a certain Boulder Face Challenge team, think again. Being the third discipline to be performed by racers with a total distance of five kilometers entails another physical and mental strength.  This year’s champion Team Tri-Buddies Tagum strived to take the lead in the tubing leg to keep its close rivals at bay all the way to the finish line. Had they not maintained the lead in the tubing, they might be overtaken by Team Wals. The strong river current of Sibulan River had to be considered, as well as the manuevering of the final meters which is situated in the open seas of Davao Gulf. 

On the other side of things, our office have received overwhelming appreciations from the general public for the success of such activity. With all the individuals, institutions, volunteers, sponsors and racers who have become part of the event this year, saying thank you might be an understatement. We could not have been that successful without your support. 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Mt Guiting-Guiting’s successful climb sets new milestone for LOGSAC

More mountaineering groups and individuals nowadays attempted to scale difficult mountains to which for me has become a mandatory part of the evolution of mountaineering in the Philippines. We always look at how tough those mountains are and we try hard to scale them one by one.

In our pursuit to climb highly-technical mountains in the Philippines, LOGSAC power duo Noel Bartolome (Pawiks) and Henry Gapula (Pagong) successfully scaled Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Romblon last April 11-13, 2015; making yet another history to the already-checkered existence of this mountaineering club. This climb was a conclusion to a failed summit attempt of the same mountain last year by Pawiks, Irvin Joy Alcoriza and Danrev Broñola.

“We were blessed with a good weather condition this time, that’s why we climbed all the way to the summit with our given itinerary,” said Pagong. G2, as fondly called by the mountaineering community, has its own character to which mountain climbers should adopt. The assault to the summit via the dangerous knife edge entails a vigorous physical and mental strength. Others even said that climbing G2 is only for the braves. The long boat trip from Batangas to Sibuyan Island is another chapter of the expedition to endure.

Mt. Guiting-Guiting forms part of the country’s knife edge trilogy, the other two being Mt. Halcon in Mindoro Oriental and Mt. Mantalingajan of Palawan. These are the very mountains also that are considered the most difficult mountains to climb as there are portions where a 90-degree assault have to be done and a mandatory mountain hugging through that “face-the-wall” track should be surmounted.

When asked about his experience of the knife edge, Pagong echoed without hesitation, “if you are careless you will die, that is how difficult this mountain is,” referring to the high cliffs visible down opposite the rock formations prior to reaching G2’s summit.

In the 8 year history of LOGSAC, I can safely say that this is perhaps one of the most ambitious climb ever done by two of our veteran members. It also sets a new milestone of our young club that will always be remembered by the rest of the group members. My only note is that no matter how difficult a mountain is to be climbed, it can always be done easily through proper planning, hiring of competent guide and coupled with a good weather.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


It is strange seeing your climb mates falling their feet sideways of a trail made up of huge rocks and high mountain cliffs. It is even weird seeing them taking the hardest breath just to survive a climb.  As an extreme outdoor sports, mountaineering – despite its being very popular now – requires a stable physical and mental strength which others ignored more often than not.

As a mountaineer for as long as I can remember, I also used to guiding guests especially in the mountain that I love most – MT. APO. They are different personalities with different outlooks in life. Their reasons of climbing also varies. There are climbers who love to meditate. Others climb for empowerment, believing that reaching the summit is an achievement only few people can do. In a broader perspective, people climb because it’s their way of communing with nature and to appreciate the beauty of earth that can only be recognized when they are in high altitudes. Mountain climbing has also been considered by others as relaxing and enable them to escape from a complex world below.

As a mountain guide, I had to adjust to a kind of guest that I head up to the mountain. I had to be very supple to fit to what the guests need during the whole course of the expedition. Which of course needs an extraordinary level of patience and determination. Of all the tasks I do, mountain guiding is one of the toughest because aside from securing your guest, you also have to survive for yourself.

In a very rare occasion, I recently had a climb that I considered one of the most memorable ever. Knowing Mt. Apo is the most colorful mountain for me, my guest who is an independent and firm woman had added a colorful component to the journey. She was as strong as I thought she could do the climb effortlessly. However, it was the other way around. When we started the second day, she had trouble doing the boulder face trek. I could really feel how hard it was for her. Her feet started ailing then, and most of the time she struggled to get past the track of higher elevation and lesser oxygen. 

With our constant pacing, we both reached the summit. I applauded her for the job done but she nodded nothing. I saw her in the summit sitting, facing the other side of the mountain. Speechless. All the while, I saw her crying. Her lips quivered and blinked fast, but it did not stop the tears from falling down her face. True to that, I realized that this woman is also mortal. Her visual response to a certain emotion was visible. The emotion, of course, was not sad emotion. Her crying was a manifestation of her happiness for reaching the country’s highest summit and for realizing that life alone is a bunch of uphills and downhills, just like Mt. Apo.

Our descent was also horrible. We reached LOGSAC gully by 5:00 PM and I decided to take off her shoes because she could no longer walk. We night trekked the track from Tinikaran Camp 2 to Tinikaran Camp 1 with her hiking barefoot (or at least with pair of socks). The assistance came very late we were halfway when Adel came to provide two more headlamps. At around 7:30 PM, we reached the campsite.

As a compliment, the entire climb enabled me to know more of the woman. Spending most of her life in a complicated scenario, I learned that she has her share of life’s ups and downs. She succumbed to several miserable experiences but eventually she survived all of those. That is why I commended her for being brave, not only in climbing Mt. Apo but also for traversing the cruel side of life.

Mentally she is tough. Physically, she is a Hollywood material and I guess I don’t have to explain why. She seldom smiles though as I observed, but when she smiles it opens a lot of opportunities. Her outward attribute is coupled with a very beautiful inside qualities. These compliments have been boring me and you I thought, but she deserves all these. It is more of seeing the good thing from her only mountaineering can translate.

Many times I successfully spearheaded a climb to Mt. Apo with different people from different places with different purpose. Many times I also felt the guilt of being the person behind their struggles. Many times I unleashed my personal insanity in the mountains with other people as lovely fatalities rather than bare witnesses. At some point I realize when will this addiction ever come to end?  If it ends, I pray that it will be in a graceful way.

If it ends, I can always say that my climb with this woman deserves to be in the mountaineering record book as one of the best climbs ever.