Scaling the Mount Apo
Late 1990’s was still my heyday for my love of the mountains. I was climbing then though I am not a very strong one I still manage to scale difficult climbs when I was back in college and before I left for work overseas. Ultimate dream for me visiting Mindanao was to climb Mt. Apo but I was not ready – I have no group and it’s not advisable to climb alone (but now its possible).
With an altitude of 3,146 metres (10,321.5 ft), Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the country and located between Davao City, Davao del Sur province and Cotabato province.
The peak overlooks Davao City 45 kilometres (25 mi) to the northeast, Digos City 25 kilometres (16 mi) to the southeast, and Kidapawan City 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the west.
On May 9, 1936, Mount Apo was declared a national park with Proclamation no. 59 by President Manuel L. Quezon, followed by Proclamation no. 35 of May 8, 1966 then Proclamation no. 882 of September 24, 1996.
But I was determined to see it up close and personal, I decided to at least do some trekking and camp in the base and meet other climbers. I was confident then that there would be people ready to accommodate one traveler but it was an eventful trip.
Remember I told you that there were insurgencies in Mindanao, well I was caught in one and that made me re-think of the whole plan.
In the crossfire
After spending a month in Davao I moved to another province – Kidapawan City – lovely city in the heart of Cotabato Province. During the time I was there, Kidapawan had just recently been declared a city through an election. There were no palpable tension, it was a peaceful election according to the people.
The easiest route to go to Mt. Apo was said to be from Kidapawan city, and you can go back down to Davao but would take 3 to 4 days depends on the climbers agility.
Being naïve (at that time) with the threats of terrorist attacks on civilians, I still went with my plans to try my luck with the mountain and see what’s out there. There were many tourist like me, mostly locals, it was summer time school was out and Mt. Apo is one of the best tourist place in Mindanao. But tourist season is a No-No if you want to experience and commune with the mountain — too many people, too many garbage and too noisy.
We took a mini van and off we went early that morning only to be stopped midway by a military checkpoint because of ongoing fighting between the military and the rebels. All were afraid including me. People were saying (and so were the soldiers) “if we continued driving, we can either be caught in the crossfire, be captured and used as human shield and worst killed without knowing what hit us.” That got me thinking (and praying) and I abandoned the idea of Mt. Apo climb.
The issue of fighting in Mindanao became a reality to me. It did made me wiser and made me realize that what I learned in school, heard and read really did happen (and still happening). You can hear gun shots from within the forests, you don’t know if it’s from the pro or against. Until that time I haven’t heard of gun shots up close and it was not a good feeling.
I had a moment of regret of going to Mindanao on a whim and I was imagining if something bad happens to me my parents would be burying two children in their lifetime, and that would be sad.
We waited almost 4 hours, when the fighting subsided before we were allowed to travel back, making sure that we will not have problems on the way back. When cleared and I am back in the city, I decided to abandon the climb thinking that it was not meant for me. Until I never get to climb it anymore and I am not as agile as I was 10 years or so ago so the dream of climbing Mt. Apo remains a dream.
To be continued …
Travel Info (Present Time)
Kidapawan Travel Guide
Mount Apo Trail