The 1st Friendship Climb was successfully conducted last April 4-5, 2019 at Mt. Isarog Natural Park (MINP). There were 13 participants composed of INECAR personnel, volunteers, and an NGO member who joined the event. The two-day climb was one way of taking part in the celebration of the International Day of Forests. With this year’s theme: Forests and Education, the activity aims to raise awareness of the participants on the importance of forests through immersion in and appreciation of an actual forest setting and conducting a clean-up drive of the litters brought and left behind by other climbers and tourists along the trail leading to and within the surroundings of Camp 1 at MINP.
Prior to the event, administrative requirements such as permits and arrangements with the Mt. Isarog Guardians (MIGs) were complied with. As a requisite, it has also been a practice at the INECAR to conduct a pre-climb meeting/orientation with the participants a few days before the climb to discuss and clarify issues and concerns related to the activity. Tasks of each individual are also laid out as well to promote accountability.
The group assembled at the Ateneo de Naga University early Thursday morning, loaded and boarded the jeepney going to the jump-off point in Barangay Panicuason, Naga City, where the Mount Isarog Guardians (MIGs) Mr. Nordan Lagos and Mr. Isabelito Jallores were waiting.
After a short prayer, the team set out for the trek to the entrance gate of Mt. Isarog Natural Park (MINP). It took about 45 minutes to reach it. The path is both concrete and unpaved and along the way, the team was treated to a panoramic view of the City of Naga, where landmarks such as the Basilica Minore can be spotted. The San Miguel Bay was also seen albeit with a bit of haze.
A Tourist Assistance Booth manned by personnel from the City ENRO of Naga greets visitors before entering the park. Everyone has to register in a Visitors’ Logbook and state the purpose for visiting. Climbers and visitors can also refill their trail water here.
The team geared up to start the climb to Camp 1 after getting some rest from the warm-up trek. The group was divided into three: the head or the trailblazers including one of the guides, the body, and sweepers or tail who are responsible for picking up any dropped objects of those ahead. Before setting out, insect repellant was applied to prevent insect bites and keep away terrestrial leech called “alimatik”. The team then entered the MINP gate to begin the trek. There was a notable change in the ambient temperature as compared to the temperature while walking along the road.
The team picked up plastic litter along the trail, put it in a trash bag, and using an android application for smartphones, geotagged the location and elevation where the garbage was picked. Trash collected were mostly candy wrappers, small food packaging, plastic bottle caps, and wet wipes. Unknown to some, the latter is nonbiodegradable and could take up to 100 years to break down.
The geotagging activity made it easier for the team to visualize the distribution of trash inside the MINP in relation to elevation, campsites, and sources of drinking water. The team made it to the campsite by lunchtime. After eating packed lunch and resting for a bit, each group pitched their tents in the designated areas and secured their belongings. Some rested while others went to the nearby waterfalls in the afternoon and again collected trash which was mostly wet wipes.
In the late afternoon, some of the team started preparing dinner while some fetched drinking water from the nearby creek. Dinner was followed by a get-to-know-you interaction and sharing among the participants on their experiences in hiking and other related activities. It was cut short when a light drizzle started, forcing everyone to call it a night and get inside their tents.
The following day, the designated cook prepared breakfast and washed the utensils in the nearby creek. After eating, the team started breaking camp and packed things immediately for the trek going back. Once all were packed, trash was also collected at the campsite and placed in a bag. The hike going down still involved picking litters along the way. Upon reaching the gate of MINP from Camp 1, the team started making the friendship bracelets. The bracelet is made up of strings with different colors and patterns to symbolize the new found friendship during the climb.
It was indeed a friendly climb where people with the same passion and interest got together for a common cause, celebrating the forest, appreciating its benefits, and helping to keep it pristine by removing foreign trash left by other careless hikers and campers.
-Jay P. Abawag