May 30, 2009

Evolution of Philippine Mountaineers

Just like mountaineering in general, the Philippine mountaineering has no defined history. People have already been climbing since pre-historic times. Climbing as a sport has already been in existence in our country even before the 1900. This was due to the fact that fragmented records of prominent people of the society scaling some of the mountains here have already been in existence. For instance the first conquest of Mt. Apo by Don Joaquin Rajal in 1880 is well known. But a comprehensive study is not available to determine who’s who and who’s first. One thing for sure is that mountaineering groups has started sprouting in the late 60s. But still no one can claim who is the first. It may also be safe to say that the 90s will be the golden year for mountaineering here in the Philippines. The natural features and history of the Philippines have molded Filipinos to become survivors and natural climbers. Its diverse flora and fauna, climate, mountainous landscape, and water network have yielded Filipino mountaineers from prehistoric times to the present. The Tabon Caveman charters not only the cave network of Palawan but also its seas and mountains for food. He created sharpened objects for hunting and scripting figures in cave walls. He learned to predict the coming of a storm. He used plants for medication. He traverses mountains and crossed rivers. He constructed makeshift homes on treetops to gear away wild animals that may attack him unaware anytime. The Aetas, who are the aborigines of the Philippine Islands, migrated from one island to another and traversed one mountain range after the other. In Pre-Spanish time, they have lived in the plains and by the shore and only hunted for food and gold in the boondocks. When Spain occupied the Philippines, many were driven to the mountains by force or by trade. For instance, Sultan Marikudo and Queen Maniwangtiwang sold the plains of Panay Island to Spaniards in exchange for crown, scepter, and jewelry and settled their tribe in the mountains. Throughout the occupation of the Philippines by Spain, Japan, and the United States of America, Filipino revolutionist had setup caverns and homes in the mountains and caves of the Sierra Madre and other mountain ranges in the country. In the mountains and rivers, they hunted wild boars, wild ducks and fresh water fish for food, managed to build huts for shelter and conferences, and discovered medicines from plants. The Philippine military trained themselves with jungle survival techniques and guerilla warfare to be able to manage their way in the mountains. These training have been expanded to cover not only people in the military but also volunteers who enlist for them. For example, the Rescue 505 Unit of the Philippine Air Force conducts Search and Rescue course to volunteers yearly. The Filipino youth has been exposed and oriented to camping, ropemanship, route-finding, backpacking, hiking, swimming, trail signs, campfire, and first aid as early as seven years old when they joined the Philippine Scouts as Cab of Star Scouts. As they become Boy or Girl Scouts, these skills are continuously reinforced in classrooms, camping, and jamborees. After school, some graduates, who used to be scouts, form groups to engage in camping. Many groups have specialized not only in camping but also particularly in climbing mountains. Thus, formal mountaineering organizations came to fore. Apart from expedition, these mountaineering organizations develop short courses to train and upgrade the skills of its membership, to participate in environmental protection undertakings by cause-oriented groups, and to conduct outreach programs in needy communities. Trough the years, mountaineering has evolved from a lifestyle of survival, where mountains became the source of its subsistence, to a vehicle for the preservation of the mountains and the communities living around it. The newest triumph of Philippine mountaineering is when the Filipinos reach the highest mountain in the globe, Mt. Everest.

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