The Hike for Light (H4L) project was undertaken by the Philippine Solar Foundation to provide solar lamps to those communities living near the mountains that has no access to electricity. In cooperation with Kaya ng Pinoy Foundation and the 1st Philippine Mt. Everest Team, the project summited 6 of the country’s highest peaks with 200 climbers and distributed 500 solar lamps to change the lives of those communities.
Barely a week after Mt. Guiting-Guiting and with knees still in recovery, I found myself on the slopes of yet another mountain, majestic Mt. Apo, the country’s highest and the last in the list of the H4L project.
Rising 2954 MASL, it straddles between the cities of Davao, Digos and Kidapawan, Mt. Apo is a potentially active volcano and a favorite among mountaineers. Declared as a National Park by Proclamation No. 59 in May 9, 1936 by President Manuel L. Quezon, it was submitted by DENR for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mt. Apo is host to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including many species of birds, foremost of which is the mystical Philippine Eagle. The mountain is also a source of geothermal power, supplying no less than 106MW to the island of Mindanao.
Compare to the previous hike, we had a large team of participants for Mt. Apo that filled a full bus. The official kick-off was in Digos City, about an hour away from the City of Davao; wherein the team made a courtesy call to the mayor and the required medical check-up for each member. From Digos, chartered vans took us to Brgy. Kapatagan for the first turnover of solar lamps, after which a dump truck took us across rugged roads up to Sitio Mainit.
The ride along this uneven terrain was already an adventure itself. For about an hour, we swayed like grass being blown by the wind, it was all funnies during the start, but after a while, laughter gave way to silence as everyone hold on to dear life for fear of being thrown overboard.
The trek to Sitio Sabwag took a little over two hours in mostly farm lands laden with cabbage, pepper and carrots. Prior to the trek, we were told that there is a covered court in the village where we can spend the night so most of us left our tents and carry only sleeping bags and some clothing. So imagine our surprises upon arrival at the site to be greeted with a makeshift court with the only cover above are clouds!
The community was kind enough to offer their homes to us and we slept side to side on whatever empty space on the floor. It was full moon that night and the light cast the landscape in an eerie soft glow.
By morning the following day, the team headed back to Brgy. Kapatagan for breakfast then proceeded to Digos City to a waiting bus that toke us to Kidapawan City.
We arrived at EDC’s geothermal plant at about 3PM and after a short briefing, their vans dropped us at the trek site.
The two-hour trek to the campsite via the executive trail was almost a walk-in-the-park. We spent the first night at the tree nursery of Energy Development Corporation’s reforestation project with makeshift cushion beds, a roof on our heads, working toilets and a fireplace – a 5-star accommodation for a mountain setting.
The trail to the summit was equally pleasant with good footholds. Upon reaching the summit however, fog shrouded most of the surrounding views with only pocket openings here and there, a disappointment for the four hour hike it took to reach the peak. Nevertheless, as the team returns the next day, we were invited to the 70th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army’s Artillery Regiment and got to experience up close the firing of a 105mm howitzer.
Our last day in Davao was spent at the Malagos Philippine Eagle Sanctuary, one of the beneficiaries of the solar lanterns.
With the H4L project finally up for a close, for sure our new found love for mountaineering will continue, even now, climbs are being planned and we shall soon be sleeping again under a blanket of stars.
All VRs taken from February 11-13, 2012. The author can be reached at: email@example.com