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Monday, June 13, 2011

In Uniting Mountaineers and Protecting the Environment

The Guinness World Records attempt of Filipino mountaineers brought a lot of attention to the Philippine mountains. Considering that the claim had to be supported by as many mountaineers within a limited time frame, adherence to low-impact climbing in the Leave No Trace principle had to be suspended. 

Looking back at what FIMO President, Jade Acidre, had explained to me last April, the federation is inviting all mountaineering organizations to join, stand and be united. The aim is to help each other, embrace the programs tied with the event and promote synergism within the mountaineering community. GWR or not, at least 3,000 mountaineers will still join the Freedom Climb. I see this more as an attempt to uplift the sport and the Filipino mountaineer, as someone who, for the love of nature and country, will let go of politics and prejudices to show others how Filipinos can unite. 





And I believe that FIMO was up for the challenge with young officers filled with idealism and patriotism taking charge of the event. During the meetings, I learned more about the real mountaineers. They are far from the newbie braggarts who could not see beyond themselves. They know the stakes and have given their best effort in organizing the event. Although we cannot overlook the disappointment of others, we have to learn, see how we can change things and then move on. 

But because mountaineers have different backgrounds and different perspectives, we cannot expect everyone to be a fan. During the Pre-Climb Meeting last June 4, however, I thought Jade Acidre made it clear. I remember the part where he tried to illustrate and simplify the objective of this event. In 2009, the Freedom Climb was organized by representatives of mountaineering organizations; he went on pointing to those who occupied the panelists' table. In 2010, many mountaineering clubs and organizations joined and celebrated Independence Day on the mountains. This year, and especially with the GWR attempt and DENR partnership, all participants who have successfully registered are now part of this historic nationwide feat. The cooperation of all mountaineering organizations and federations were critical to the event as this event was created to have these factions all-in-one for a 'greater good'.

Having heard Mr. Acidre's explanation during the Pre-Climb Meeting, I almost forgot that FIMO and Ms Clavel organized the event. Were they successful in uniting the factions? It almost felt real but was pulled back to the ground when I tried to reach out to other Team Leaders. I had to seek the advice of the organizers because I was in no way interested in bypassing them. Mr. Acidre's feedback was surprisingly one with respect and trust. And so I proceeded with my plan. I can never be more grateful to those who agreed to serve as Marshals on the mountains in my designated area. But even appointing Marshals seemed like a dreadful task. It was sad how many turned down the request to take charge of the documentation and distribution of items (which also doubled as controls for compliance to the GWR mechanics). 

It was only 2 days before the event, when all of the Team leaders I approached confirmed their support.  The marshals and team leaders who acknowledged the responsibility and the need are admirable. They realize that this is not just about them joining a climb. They accept the task of being the first to ascend and the last to descend. Hardly did I know that another issue would arise when they started picking up the kits assigned to them. Not enough of the kits were available the day the leaders came to pick them up. And having sat a few times with the organizing committee, I know that FIMO was intent in making these kits available on time. I don't know why there weren't enough. Still, the team leaders did their best in filling the gap and supporting other groups in their respective climb destinations.

I got an hour's shut-eye before I left for Laguna. As of June 11, 3 mountains in South Luzon did not get any of their supplemental event kits. I knew the leaders had been expecting their kits to comply with the mechanics. I was told their kits would be delivered at the gateway, if they had to. Little did I know it did not apply to all destinations and that nobody would be available to do this. I found this to be unfair since many of these groups had registered early. 

However disappointing it was, I was hoping that the participants would understand for the sake of accomplishing our GWR feat. The bag tags, baller bands, shirts were commemorative and integral to ensure compliance to GWR mechanics. But without these, the GWR mechanics still stood. We groped and I felt their difficulty to surpass nearsightedness to see the more meaningful objectives of the Freedom Climb 2011. At a time, I hesitated from giving directions because unlike many of them, it was my first time to join the Freedom Climb.

In one of the mountains, they used the barangay log book to complete a listing of participants who climbed from June 11 to June 12. In another mountain, they had their waivers stamped with the barangay seal to authenticate their participation. Yet, in another mountain, they denied receiving thorough instructions when one of the organizers actually spoke with them. Besides, they can be found at the official Freedom Climb website. Still, I am thankful for all those who cooperated and tried to make this event worthwhile. Maraming napilitan maging friends and email correspondents because I kept on sending 'spam' mails. I cannot text or call everyone, but I try to when I can. Please understand that, as a volunteer, I am in no way compensated for this event and so I have to work within my limited budget. Again, I admire those who looked beyond the freebies and made sacrifices for a unified climb. It is not easy to be accountable to other groups for something beyond your control.

Mt Makiling, almost at the summit
Painful as it is for someone who advocates biodiversity conservation, the Freedom Climb 2011 was instrumental in getting people's attention to the Philippine mountains. Many would be awed with the beauty and majesty of our natural resources. They are there for everybody without prejudice. And yet, we fail to protect them. We have failed in the past 20 years by letting our forests be ravaged by illegal loggers, scraped by mining companies and converted for commercial purposes. These are the major causes of biodiversity loss. Instead of lush cover, our mountains have turned to grasslands. Would it hurt more to know that some of these mountains are no longer in public domain? Who knows what will become of them in the near future?

I am saddened by DENR's lack of diligence in sending local representatives to let the participants know NGP specifics and plans of their local office in participating climb destinations. Their presence and support would have been immensely appreciated. The participants would have known more about DENR's local efforts and inspired more supporters for the million hectare challenge in 6 years. But perhaps, that's asking too much and too much thinking out of the box.



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2 comments:

naku ate, mukhang madami kang pinagdaanan diyan sa Freedom Climb. I truly admire your passion. I really would have wanted to join but I felt I'm not yet ready (in so many ways!). Maybe next year. Do post your pics, I would love to see more :)

Its a worthwhile learning experience :) but I did have fun during the climb! kaka-miss...Mt Makiling is just soo beautiful! I hope you and Arby can join me in my next climb near Manila.

I will post photos as soon as I find them! Can't find it together with my other events that week...grrrr...I'm just waiting for Ditto, maybe I saved it in his external hd.

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