Sagipin at Alagaan ang Ganda ng Kalikasang Atin (SAGKA) Mountaineering Society – a Manila-based group headed by upstart film director Noel Montano – recently visited Kalinga and teamed up with the newly organized Kalinga Mountaineering Society (KMS) for the planned trek up Mt. Patukan in Tanudan.
“But before my group forged the partnership with SAGKA, I had to subject my newly recruited KMS members to a rigorous training,” Nathaniel Dalanao, KMS founder, said.
The KMS training for the neophyte climbers was a basic mountaineering course that included a seminar on environmental awareness, first-aid application, knot-tying, anchoring and tent-pitching, rescue procedures, map-reading, trail sign-reading, basic rapelling, day-packing, full-packing, water-proofing and back pack water-riding.
The two-day basic mountaineering course (October 29-30) was held at the St. William’s grounds and at the Pasunglao bridge.
The adventure took the two groups to Upper Tanudan where the villagers’ warm welcome impressed the Manila visitors.
“Everything we have heard about Kalinga was proven wrong,” Montano expressed. “Our parents and relatives had been warning us about practices they have heard about the province, but instead we were immersed in a community full of friendly and hospitable people.”
Aside from the usual mountaineering activities, like the rapelling experience at a hanging bridge in barangay Pugo, SAGKA and KMS held a meeting with barangay officials and the villagers on environmental awareness. Having seen the immediate needs of the clustered barangays in Upper Tanudan, SAGKA promised to solicit the help of some NGO’s in Metro Manila for the installation of septic tanks.
The whole experience had a twist when, on their way back to Tabuk, the mountaineers chanced upon a stranded pick-up truck, with its passengers exposed to the harsh cold wind and the stinging drizzle from the storm.
“Without hesitation, we responded to the passengers’ needs by bringing out medicines, bondages, thermal blankets – especially so that three of the passengers were babies bound for a check-up in Tabuk,” Montano recounted. “We had to heat them up by boiling water for their milk that we still had in our supplies.”
“The ropes we had with us were used for pulling the truck from where it was ditched,” Dalanao recalled, “while some were sent to nearby Se-et to call for a rescue.”
As for future activities lined up for KMS, Dalanao envisions Balbalan to be in their hit list soon. He said, “As soon as we have completed the gadgets we need, we would be scheduling our next climb. KMS is not just a group of mountaineers, we are also environmentalist and rescue volunteers. We also involve ourselves with community projects.”
Which is perhaps why the group was able to seek the support of its sponsors Hon. Manuel Agyao, Hon. Jocel Baac, Hon. Camilo Lammawin Jr, Hon. Rhustom Dagadag, SWA Batch of 1992 and the Provincial Tourism Office.
As of now, the e-media is the most active promotion engine of Kalinga tourism, particularly the kalingatambayan website of Mr. Dalanao, which is now ranked #1 by the infophilippines.com on Travel and Places category.
“I just feel sad sometimes that Kalinga people are tourists in their own province,” Dalanao lamented. “I hope that KMS would be able to help in changing that.”
Joining Mr. Dalanao in his vision is the first batch of KMS that include April Joy Gayagay, Fanaliza Sacki, Jayson Bacacao, Bryan Baggas, Moises Manganip Jr., Brendon Awingan, Janelle Mangatam, Agagon Gumbawan, Roderick Wangi, Joji Banawa, Jeremias Baggas.
“The experience was quite fulfilling. Kalinga, indeed is beautiful,” Elpidio Lopez, a SAGKA member, ended.