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I Conquered Mt. Apo, the Highest Mountain Peak in the Philippines

So, after only less than a week of preparation, last April 9, 2014  I joined a trek to Mt. Apo in lined with the launching of Mt. Apo Sandawa Climb Festival in Kidapawan City and the opening of this year's climbing season.
Mt. Apo. Picture taken from the camp site in Lake Venado.
I am glad and proud to share that I have completed the climb to Mt Apo, one of my dream destinations, the country's highest peak at an elevation of 2,954 meters and considered as the "Grandfather of Philippine Mountains".

It was a very unforgettable experience, a dream come true. 

Our actual climb began morning of April 9 after tribal leaders in Brgy. Ilomavis, Kidapawan City conducted the ritual called Pamaas which is part of the launching of Mt. Apo Sandawa Climb Festival held at the jump-off point of Mandarangan Trail located in Sitio Agco.
Performed by tribal leaders, the Pamaas is a ritual to ask permissions from the Anitos of the forest and mountain spirits to conduct the activity and ask for protection of the mountaineers
Kalumad, a group of cultural performers welcomed our group and other participants with cultural dances and music
We climbed Mt. Apo via the Mandarangan Trail in Kidapawan City which is said to be the most used of all the trails in going to the country's highest peak. It has the widest trail and most mountaineers considered it as the friendlier one.
Mandarangan Trail features river crossings with boulders and huge rocks and a steep forested trail . We crossed more or less ten (10) rivers before reaching the campsite located in Lake Venado.
 Some part of the rivers that we need to cross are knee-deep high while some are up to the waist.
One exciting part of the trail was crossing the rivers using the makeshift bridges made of a log or a bamboo. If I counted it right, there were 3 or 4 bridges of this kind that we've passed just to cross the river.
And about one hour and a half after we left at the jump-off point in Sitio Agco we reached the Matiao Camp, had rest for some minutes and then continued the trekking adventure to Mt. Apo. Matiao Camp usually serves as a resting area for trekkers and sometimes a holding area for stranded mountaineers due to swelling of Marbol river.

Then about two hours later, we reached Ko-ong Campsite where we took our lunch and then proceeded with the trek. Just like in Matiao, food items are sold at Ko-ong Campsite, of course at a higher prices. There is also a water source located in the area.
Moss-covered trees surrounds Lake Venado, Mt. Apo
We left Ko-ong Campsite after we took our lunch and headed to Lake Venado where we set camp and stayed for a night. Trail from Ko-ong going to Lake Venado started to be an assault type. Rain also started to fall and trail getting more steep, making the trek more challenging. We also climbed an almost 90 degree trail going to Lake Venado, good thing there was that built wooden ladder.
90 degree assault to Lake Venado. Photo by Ayel
We arrived at Lake Venado at around 4:30 PM. That was more than three (3) hours after we left from Ko-ong. Our porters have already set up our tents when we reached the campsite and guides have started preparing foods. I took some photos of the summit as soon as we arrived, a cup of hot coffee and mingled with other participants. Then, had our dinner and slept early in preparation for the summit assault the next morning. Temperature at Lake Venado is cold but manageable.
The next morning, I woke up early and was even more amazed with the magnificent view of Lake Venado surrounded by moss-covered trees and the towering view of the peak of Mt. Apo.

We began ascent to the peak of Mt. Apo at around 8 AM. Our guide told us that it would take us more or less three (3) hours before reaching the campsite at the summit. Determined to see what the grand Mt. Apo has prepared for us at the top, our group started the climb. The first part of the trail was passing through a short forest with muddy terrain. Then we reached a grassland area where trail was even steeper and exhausting. From there you can already see the entirety of Lake Venado and the campsite. I see green wherever I point my eyes. It was a breathtaking view.

Then half-way to the summit campsite of Mt. Apo is a mini-forest. We took the much needed rest there for some minutes and then proceeded with our climb.
Added attractions along the trail are different kinds of unfamiliar plants and flowers growing freely.
Mt. Talomo as seen from Mt. Apo
There were wild berries growing abundantly near  the summit campsite too.
I really enjoyed picking and  eating berries along the trail. It eases tiredness.

A breathtaking view of Lake Venado and the wide campsite surrounded by trees. 
And finally we reached the campsite at the summit past 12 noon. There were other groups of climbers at the campsite when we arrived so we looked for a place to rest while waiting for our other companions and took our lunch when they arrived. The summit campsite was a spacious grassland surrounded by various peaks.

We ascent further to the highest peak.
The dead lake as seen from one of the peaks of Mt. Apo.
There is part in the summit that you can see huge rocks, boulders and sulfuric smokes coming from one of Mt. Apo's vent.
Some plants growing at the summit of Mt. Apo.
Wild berries are everywhere at the summit of Mt. Apo. 

Me, on top of the Philippines - 2,954 meters above sea level! Photo by Ayel

It started to rain when we reached the highest peak and became extremely cold so we just stayed for few minutes and started descent back to Lake Venado. One and a half hours later we were back at the campsite. 

..to be continued ^^ 

Asik-Asik Falls | Alamada, Cotabato Province

Asik- Asik Falls, the newest tourist destination in Mindanao discovered early last year is located at Sitio Dulao, Brgy. Dado, Alamada, Cotabato Province.
Last Sunday, I finally traveled to the town of Alamada to see the the newly-discovered natural wonder  called Asik-Asik Falls, I've been planning the trip since last year. 

I took the first trip (3 A.M.) of Rural Transit bus from General Santos City bound to Cagayan de Oro City that morning and asked the bus driver to drop me off at the Kabacan Integrated Transport Terminal, then rode a PUV bound to the town of Midsayap which passed through several towns of Maguindanao and of Cotabato provinces. I reached the town of Midsayap at around 8:00 o'clock in the morning and waited for about 2 hours at the jeepney terminal for the first trip bound to Dado, Alamada which is at 10:00 o'clock.

Jeepney bound to Alamada from the town of Midsayap
The jeepney left the transport terminal in Midsayap at 10:20 AM and we arrived in Brgy. Dado, Alamada  at around 1:00 PM. Passed through mountain road and the Raradangan River which bridge was destroyed by a flood and is still unaccessible to four-wheel type vehicles.

The jeepney ride from Midsayap to Upper Dado, Alamada was tiring but just like my previous travel I enjoyed the sceneries and of course the trip didn't end there. Upon arriving at Upper Dado I registered at the tourism booth and paid the entrance fee to Asik-Asik Falls of Php30.00 and then a tourism staff helped me find a habal-habal (motorcycle) that brought me to the jump off area of Asik-Asik Falls. The habal-habal ride was even more tiring as it passes through a very rocky road. I just considered the 45-minute rough travel as part of the adventure add to that the very talkative Ilonggo-speaking habal-habal driver which never run out of things to say about Asik-Asik Falls and the place which made it more fun.

And finally after more than 10 hours of travel from Gensan, tired but full of excitement I set foot in Sitio Dulao, Dado, Alamada. At the jump off area where a bunch of motorcycles were parked I was greeted by tourism staff Sir Jude Magbanua. He was surprised that I traveled alone all the way from Gensan just to see Asik-Asik Falls. He then accompanied me to the start of the trail, the 500+ steps stairway down to Asik-Asik Falls.

And the real adventure begins.. enjoy the photos! Click the image for a larger view.
Asik-Asik Falls' 500+ steps stairway
Curtain-like Asik-Asik Falls
Asik-Asik Falls is about 60 meters high and 140 meters width. After taking some photos, I immediately plunged into the crystal clear water. All the efforts during the trek and my long travel were all worth it, the water is so cold and very refreshing.
I really enjoyed the rejuvenating waters that I stayed there for almost 3 hours and almost forget about the habal-habal driver that was still waiting for me at the jump off area.

Taking again the 500+ steps stairway, I left Asik-Asik Falls at around 4:30 PM and glad that the habal-habal was still there waiting for me. 

Expenses during my solo trip to Asik-Asik Falls:

Fare (Gensan- Alamada and back)
Gensan - Kabacan (via Rural Transit Bus) - P 275.00
Kabacan - Midsayap (via van) - P 50.00
Midsayap - Dado, Alamada (via jeepney) - P 70.00
Upper Dado - Asik-Asik Falls (via habal-habal) - P 100.00
Asik-Asik Falls - Libungan  (via habal-habal) - P 350.00
Libungan - Midsayap (via tricycle) - P 12.00
Midsayap - Kidapawan (via van) - P120.00
Kidapawan City - Tacurong City (via van) - P 100.00
Tacurong City - Koronadal City (via Yellow Bus) - P 37.00
Koronadal City - Gensan (via Yellow Bus) - P 83.00

Accommodation in Midsayap - P 350.00
Foods - P 320.00

My Nopol Hills and Amsikong Falls Birthday Fun Climb

I been wanting to celebrate my birthday up in the mountains where I can rest a bit from the busy city life, unwind and experience being one with nature. 

So last August 7, 2013 together with some members of MEGS Mountaineers from Polomolok, South Cotabato I hiked to parts of Nopol Hills or 6th Peak (according to a friend from MEGS) stayed there overnight and visited Amsikong Falls the following day.
With MEGS Mountaineers

MEGS Noel and Hansam Guy
MEGS members Noel and HG were my two companions on my trek up to Nopol Hills. From the barangay plaza of Cannery, we took a 15-minutes motorcycle ride passing through the vast pineapple plantations of Dole Philippines to Purok Cassava in Brgy. Maligo, Polomolok the jump off area of our trek. We paid P20.00 each for the ride.

Our more or less 3-hour trek to Nopol Hills started at Purok Cassava, where we crossed a river and again passed through another pineapple plantation before reaching "rancho" where we registered our names in the visitor's logbook. 
Gate at the "rancho". There is no entrance fee but visitors are required to log their names in the record.
View  of the vast pineapple plantations and parts of Polomolok from one of the hills 
It rained the night before our climb. The trail was muddy and a bit slippery.
After more or less 2 hours of trekking , we reached our destination - the 6th Peak!

The three of us immediately headed to the small hut found at the area where we met "Manong" who owns a portion of the hill which he used to plant with corn. 

We asked Manong if we can have our tent at the side of his hut and he easily agreed. Immediately Noel and HG and of course with few help from me arranged our tent which will be our shelter until the next day. We took a little rest and as soon when our energy were back we then prepared our foods.
Our tent area
HG -our cook.

Lunch is served!
We just took a rest after the long trek and decided to visit Amsikong Falls the next morning. 

Drinking session (birthday party in the mountains.. hehe) then followed until the night where five other members of MEGS Mountaineers joined us, arriving past 9 PM at 6th Peak. They said they left the jump off area at Cassava past 7 PM and with them only a candle lighting their way. 

My hat's off for them, I just can't imagine how they were able to managed that night trek.

The Next Morning (My Birthday) ..

Everybody got up early, prepared our foods and readied for our trek down to Amsikong Falls which is still about 30 minutes away trek down from where we set up our tent.

So to Amsikong Falls we set off. 

I must say that in all of us that day I am the most excited, I've never heard of this falls before and no one from MEGS Mountaineers has description how it looks. 
We passed through big rocks, climb on them and have to plunged into river pools to be able to proceed to the next.
Rock climbing it is! 

I was not ready for this part and I must admit that I almost give up and stop upon reaching this portion of the trail. 

But of course I did, thinking that it was my birthday and so I maybe lucky that day, I tried the challenge. 

And I survived. 
Both my legs were shaking as I trekked down the huge rocks without any harness, I just depended on parts of the rock that I can hold. 
And finally, the reward for taking on the challenge - the beauty of Amsikong Falls.

There were about 7-8 river pools and small waterfalls I've seen on the trail before we stop and I've learned that there are actually 13 falls in that area. 
It rained the night prior to our visit so the water was not that clear. And to make the adventure complete, I took a dip and enjoyed the refreshing and cold waters.

We ended up here and they said there are still more falls ahead. 

That fun climb to Nopol Hills and the trek to Amsikong Falls was one of the most challenging adventures I had so far and my most memorable birthday celebration. 

Adventure enthusiasts out there, check it out yourself.

By the way I'm now 27. :)