So I just got back from a 5-day Mindanao adventure via the 7th wave of our Happy to Live, Glad to Give endeavor. This time, our free spirits and good will (excuse me lang, blog ko to haha) would take us to the grandfather of all mountains here in the Philippines: the great Mt. Apo. Whether you are a mountaineer or not, you’ve probably heard of Mt. Apo if only for its reputation as being the highest peak in the country. You all graduated elementary right? 😉 In the mountaineering community, a lot of people would probably argue mountains with grander views and infinitely harder trails and although there is truth in that, a Pinoy’s mountain “bucket list” would not be complete without having to scale Mt. Apo first.
The event unofficially started on the 23rd of August for me, which was the assigned date for the assembly of participants in Davao. Most of the participants had different flights (which depended on the availability of promo fares) so long as everyone would be in Davao come Thursday evening. Some of our co-climbers (Javes, Shelly and Alvin) were already in Davao by the 22nd while some would be arriving as late as 9 PM on the 23rd. Personally, I joined Erwin, Des and Harie on the first flight out from Manila aboard Airphil Express so we arrived at Davao City a little after 5:30 in the morning. We had breakfast at the airport while waiting for Kuya Fred and Ed’s flight so we could go to Ed’s sister’s house and drop off our things before touring the city. We needed to kill time after all before everyone else is assembled.
Going to Davao was actually semi-historic for me because it was my first time in Mindanao. I’ve never been there before and I guess the farthest I’ve been south was in Dumaguete. So of course, I was very excited. I know a little about the language since my own mother was Bisaya and most of the languages in the south have numerous cognates anyway and I’m versed in some of them. I don’t try to speak as much though because even if I do understand the language in context, my conjugations would be far from perfect. It’ll probably be faulty at best and possibly offensive at its worst. So I just nod, smile and say “Lugar lang” most of the time. 😀
After dropping off our things at Kuya Ed’s, off we went to Ecoland Terminal to see Des and Harie off. They were going to General Santos for the day to visit the beaches there as well as meet up with Des’s friend. On our part, Kuya Fred, Erwin and I were going to wait for Vernz’s flight to arrive and tour the city until the meetup time. Kuya Ed had to stay behind at his sibling’s house to catch up with some work (we all have to earn after all…). I actually met up with my cousin Riel at Ecoland terminal while waiting for Kuya Fred who went and met up with Vernz at the airport. Riel, or Chok as we fondly call him, is currently studying college at Davao while his folks (our Mamang and Papang! :D) reside in Matalam, Cotabato. We basically just caught up with each other before his afternoon class with the promise of dropping by their house once we descend Apo on the 26th.
We headed to the market of Bankerohan afterwards to meet up with Kuya Fred and Vernz because we agreed that we would visit the Philippine Eagle Center at Calinan (if nothing else) In retrospect, walking around Bankerohan under the scorching heat of the sun was probably not the brightest idea but still, market places are always fun places to be in :D. Piles of mangosteens, pomelos, rambutan, bananas, and durians were just lined up all along the place. I wanted to buy rambutans but I didn’t want to carry it around with me while touring the city. Anyway we met up with Kuya Fred and Vernz soon after that and after an hour-ride via van to Calinan and some habal-habal action, we arrived at the Philippine Eagle Center by noon.
We actually caught up with sir Javes, (one of our co-climbers) who was touring the city on his own, when we arrived at the Eagle farm. He was just on his way to leave the complex but not before taking the opportunity to take pictures with the humongous snakes that were on display near the souvenir shops. The tenants actually let the snakes out of their cages so that tourists could get to take pictures while carrying them. Vernz and Kuya Fred joined in on the “fun” while I was content in watching them from a good distance.
Now this is the part where I say that I truly abhor snakes. Yes, I can use a word that extreme to describe how I feel about them. I wish all of them did not exist and because of a childhood event, I don’t think I’ll ever ever appreciate their existence. In general, I’m not for complete specie extinction but for them, I’ll gladly make an exception. Turtles are the only reptiles I can tolerate. So needless to say, I was scared shitless in the background while my friends were having giant monstrosities crawl over the bodies as they smile for the camera.
After that semi-traumatic exposure, it was time to head on over to visit the Kings themselves: the Philippine Eagle Center. We paid the appropriate fee then had one of the center personnel to give us a guided tour. Some parts of the complex actually housed non-aviary creatures like the Common Palm Civet (source of the famous Alamid Coffee), Golden-Crowned Flying Fox, Owls, Crocodiles, Koi, Philippine Brown Deers and some very playful monkeys. There were also numerous lesser eagles, both within cages and without. This included the likes of the Brahminy Kite and the Grey Headed Fishing Eagle.
Aside from the animals, the complex’s floras were also quite spectacular. A lush explosion of bright colors would accompany the visitors as they tour around the place. The landscaping was actually done quite nicely and it lent itself well to the appeal of the place.
Of course, there were the Kings themselves. Majestic and oh so regal in their stances, the Philippine Eagles were really quite a sight to behold. They are endemic to the country although their existence is highly threatened at the moment which is why they are closely monitored. Unlike with snakes, I’m all for the preservation of their species. 🙂 Numerous visitors actually donate money to help keep the facilities upright and continue to care for the birds. Their names get to be engraved on the pathway as thanks. For the more generous ones, including those who adopt an Eagle and personally pay for the costs in caring for them, special plaques of appreciation are mounted at the Philippine Eagle Center. Companies like Novartis, Avida and Boysen are some examples. We were informed that some celebrities like Kim Atienza also indulge in the same practice.
There were quite a few Philippine Eagles in the complex including Pagkakaisa, Robin, Hood and the more famous ones like Pag-Asa and Mindanao. Pag-Asa was the first successful offspring that was conceived thru artificial insemination roughly 20 years ago. Then there was Mindanao which was the poster child for their species. Any “Philippine Eagle” depicted in posters and other print advertisements were actually of Mindanao because it is said that he was the most symmetrical of all the Philippine Eagles in captivity. He was actually just tethered to a rock instead of being caged like the others. The only other creatures that were left outside the cages were the eagles that had serious growth-dampening injuries like an underdeveloped wing or damaged eyes.
After looking at the Kings of the Skies, we headed lastly to Diola’s Museum. It was a mini-museum that showcased amazing facts about the Philippine Eagles. They also had the actual body of Diola, stuffed and preserved for display. I think Diola was the mother of Pag-Asa. We took some creative shots with the banners and posters of Minadano which were displayed inside the museum as well. After we were done with the museum, it was off to Calinan once more to have a semi-late carinderia lunch and another hour-long van ride back to the center of Davao City.
It was already getting late in the afternoon so we decided to go straight to SM Davao in order to buy last minute climb supplies for ourselves and some of our friends. At SM, we caught up with more co-climbers like Lee Jay, Mayo and Rose. After all of our shopping was done, we went back to Ed’s once more to wash up and wait until the whole party was complete before heading to Digos City. Our hired transportation actually picked up the rest of our party at the airport and just met up with us en route to Digos. By 12 midnight, with all of us complete and sleep deprived in our own ways, we headed for Sitio Mainit in Kapatagan, Digos so that the climb/outreach will finally begin.
*Photo credit: Siegfred Tuberon
**Photo credit: Erwin Claver
To follow: Day 1 of our Mt. Apo Climb – HLGG 7 Outreach at Apolandia Elementary School 😀