The first two attempts to reach Mt. Apo’s summit were failures. They were led by Jose Oyanguren (1852) and Señor Real (1870). Success came in October 10, 1880, when an expedition led by Don Joaquin Rajal finally reached the top.
But there is a colorful story behind the climb.
Prior to the climb, Rajal had to secure the permission of the Bagobo chieftain, Datu Manig.who demanded that a human sacrifice be made to please to god Mandarangan. Fortunately, the datu decided to waive this demand. The climb commenced on October 6, 1880, and succeeding five days later.
Don Joaquin’s success led to numerous successful expeditions. These were well documented in the narrations made by Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J.
Mt. Apo is said to be named after a nobleman named Apong, who was killed while breaking up a fight between two of his daughter’s suitors. Another origin of the mountain’s name comes from the word Apo itself, which in Filipino means “master” or “grandfather.”
Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the country, and is situated between Davao City, Davao del Sur province and Cotabato province.
The peak overlooks the highly-urbanized City of Davao which is 45 kilometres (25 mi) to the northeast, Digos City (25 kilometres) to the southeast, and Kidapawan City (20 kilometres) 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, and subsequently, Proclamation no. 882 of September 24, 1996.
Mt. Apo is home to several indigenous tribes. These include the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas and the Tagacaolo. Since time immemorial, these ethnic groups have lived and thrived in the mountain which they consider as holy ground. To them, Mt. Apo is their place of worship, being the burial ground of Apo Sandawa, their great-grandparent.
The mountain provides these tribes with a regular source of food and medicine, and more importantly, has become the foundation of their spiritual and cultural way of life.
Flora and Fauna
A total of 227 vertebrates which include 69 families of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have been recorded in Mt. Apo. Likewise, 118 species of butterflies have been found in the area. The most popular bird to be discovered living in the mountain is the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jeffreyi), one of the world’s largest eagles and has been proclaimed as the Philippine’s national bird.
How to get there (the easy way)
The Kidapawan-Magpet trail is the easiest among the many trails to the peak and is the preferred trail chosen by novice climbers. The trail’s first stop is Lake Agko. From there, hikers cross the Marbel River using a makeshift bridge fashioned out of coconut logs but without strings to hold on to. This is one of the dangerous parts of the trail due to the threat of flashfloods which could instantly wash away the bridge.
After negotiating the Marbel River for about three hours, you will reach the first campsite in Mainit Hot Springs. Here, trekkers will be generously rewarded, as they can dip in a hot and soothing pool of mineral-filled water. However, you must reach this first campsite before 3:00 PM, because the next campsite, which is located in Lake Venado, is still 5-6 hours away.
But before proceeding, hikers must prime themselves, as they will have to travers a thick forest leading to two “killer trails”: the “87-degree” and the “90-degree” trail. Though it would take only about 15 minutes to negotiate these trails, they are known to take a major toll on climbers. Ropes have been installed along these trails to make them safer and reduce accidents.
After making it through this difficult stage of the climb, you will reach a swamp that that leads to Lake Venado. This is point where the many of the trails intersect. This area is ideal for resting and setting up camp. During the summer, Bagobo folk would set up stalls here.
From Lake Venado, it would take another three hours to reach the peak. But this time, instead of a rocky trail, hikers will be walking across a cogon grassland finally leading to the mountain’s summit where you will be simultaneously awed by the breathtaking view of the landscape below and the mountain’s crater which once spewed fire and brimstone. Here at the top, you will see wild berries, and temperate plants which you will not encounter at the lower stages of the trail.
When descending, the Magpet trail is suggested, through most climbers typically take the Davao (south) side. Mt. Apo is truly spellbinding, as it possesses a wide array of landscapes – from craggy rockscapes to virgin forests, to mossy swamps and volcanic structures. The mountain provides climbers an experience they will surely not forget.