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MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos again ruled the 2nd International Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge which concluded Sunday with the Manila-based Team Bebang crossing the finish line at 7:02 a.m.
Team Bebang, whose members are soldiers of the Philippine Army, won the competition’s top prize of P150,000, with a total clock time of 15:38:33. The team is composed of brothers Cresenciano and Gerald Sabal, and Jhanalodin Lucman.
In second place was Team Carmen of Davao del Norte composed of Jonathan Pido, Ronald Dagaang, Edwin Bueno (15:59:18.), winning P100,000. In third place and winning P75,000 was Team Apo Ville from Digos, Davao del Sur composed of Marcial Catanggui, Romeo Mascardo Jr., and Hilario Ladra (17:12:58).
Fourth to eight place finishers win P10,000 per team. According to the race organizers, this is the biggest set of prizes among adventure races in the country.
The Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge is one of the toughest adventure races in the Philippines. It is a 24-hour extreme challenge using various disciplines such as mountain biking, trekking, water tubing, and road running.
Participants in the race had to navigate through the town's tough trails and raging rivers, scaled the boulder face of Mount Apo, culminating in the skyline of the country's highest mountain which tops at 10,000 feet.
This year’s race attracted 13 foreign and 35 local teams, according to Arturo Boncato, Jr., regional director for the Department of Tourism-Davao, co-organizer of the event. Some of the countries represented were Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Each participating team is composed of two racers and one handling logistics, and covered a distance of 90.3 km, “which is longer than the Iron Man,” an international triathlon event, he noted. The Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge may be considered “tougher” because the racers also have a mountain to climb, and had to battle freezing temperatures at the peak.
He explained that most of the foreign teams were “first time racers, and were unfamiliar with the terrain. It also rained hard in the mountain and at the peak yesterday that slowed them down.”
Team Champion Systems Adventure from Hong Kong was the first foreign team that made it through the finish line and was fifth in overall ranking. “The team is composed of an Australian living in Beijing, and an American living in Hong Kong. Their logistics guy is Filipino,” said Boncato.
He added that while Team Bebang’s members were also first-time climbers of Mount Apo, they hail from Sultan Kudarat “and are known marathon champions. The race has trekking and running as the longest leg,” giving them a possible edge over the other racers.
Cresenciano Sabal has won the national Milo marathon three times. He and his brother participated in the 2011 CamSur Marathon, a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
Amid light rainshowers, the event kicked off at 6 a.m. Saturday with a mountain bike race starting from the Sta. Cruz municipal plaza.
After the biking leg, racers had to scale the boulder face of Mount Apo, whose peak was first reached at 3 p.m. by Team Carmen. Team Bebang reached the summit 14 minutes later, followed by Team Apo Ville, then Team Champion Adventure.
Team Carmen head Pido, a patrol officer by profession, and his partner last year, Angelito Sibuyan, won the 2011 challenge with a record of 22 hours, 51 minutes, and 42 seconds. They, however, formed separate teams this year.
By 7 p.m. Saturday night, all teams were making their way to Sibulan River pitstop for an overnight rest. Team Bebang reached the Sibulan pit stop at 9:30 p.m., closely followed by Team Carmen and the others.
The race resumed at 5:30 a.m. Sunday riding down the river in a water tube, then running back on foot toward the finish line at the municipal plaza.
According to Boncato, while Team Carmen was the early forerunner in the event, Dagaang slightly injured his foot, which slowed them down. Former Team Carmen member and last year’s co-champion, Sibuyan, wasn’t so lucky either, and was unable to finish the race also due to an injury.
The Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge is one of the highlights of the annual Pista sa Kinaiyahan (Feast of the Environment) of the municipality of Sta. Cruz. The Boulder Face Challenge was first held in 2008, but last year, DOT-Davao region and the Sta. Cruz municipality decided to encourage international teams to participate as well.
Boncato said the annual competition has made Davao region a leading destination for eco-adventure tourism. It has also helped increase awareness about the importance of protecting the environment.
Declared a national park in 1936 and a protected area in 2004, Mount Apo is home to the Philippine eagle, and hundreds of other critically threatened bird and plant species. The national park is on the tentative list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as a Heritage Site.
Mount Apo is an active volcano, and at 10,000 feet, is the highest point in the Philippines.
Data from the Sta. Cruz municipality showed 923 climbed Mount Apo using the Sta. Cruz trail in 2011, up 19 percent from 2010. There are two other major trails going up the mountain’s summit from the North Cotobato side.
The 2nd International Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge was also supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region 11, Department of Trade and Industry-Davao del Sur, San Miguel Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp.-Hedcor Sibulan Inc.; Columbia Sportswear Co., Primer Group of Companies, Recreational Outdoor Exchange, and Zest Air.