Inspiring Pinoys

How Did Davao del Sur's Tribe People Brave the Fire of Mt. Apo

Davao del Sur

Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | Apr 19, 2016

Everyone, most especially mountain climbers and environmentalists, were utterly devastated upon hearing the news of the forest fire that started high up in the mountains of Mt. Apo. In an article published by the Sun.Star Davao newspaper, the fire, started by irresponsible hikers trekking through the mountain during Black Saturday of the Holy Week, raged for nearly two weeks, and was declared under control last April 10. Immediately upon being alerted of the threat, the local government units of both Cotabato and Davao mobilized to quell the spreading flame. However, because of the dried grass and vines brought about by the summer heat, the sheer difficulty in scaling the mountain, as well as the lack of necessary manpower and equipment, the efforts to extinguish the flames were delayed.

At this point, many Mindanaoans were already becoming concerned; Mt. Apo was a huge icon within their livelihood and culture, and to see it in such a deplorable state was, at the very least, disheartening. When the fire reached the third day without any signs of stopping, brave individuals decided to step up to the task and fought the tiresome fight for their homeland.

These brave souls were the forest guards of Sibulan, Davao del Sur, all of them part of the indigenous Bagobo-Tagabawa, and acted on their own initiative, claiming that “Mt. Apo is home to our sacred grounds.” Being former hunters of the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe practicing kaingin, they were more than adept at extinguishing fires using wild abaca trunks, the pulp of which apparently containing a lot of water, helping to better extinguish the raging flames. Also, being former hunters, they knew the terrain and its intricacies very well, easily being able to traverse paths that would challenge inexperienced trekkers.

READ: The Bagobo-Tagabawa Tribe: The Colorful Mountain People of Davao del Sur

And though there were many of the Bagobo-Tagabawa who wanted to join the initiative, they could not do so, as the equipment necessary to quell the fire — boots, skullguards, fire jackets — were in short supply. The burden then fell on to the rag tag team of forest guards led by Danilo Lito Ambe, president of the Bantek Pwolassannan or forest guards of Sibulan. In the end, it was the bravery and knowledge of these tribesmen, coupled with the preparedness of the local governments in Cotabato and Davao, that put the fire under control.

Though the damage to the mountain was extensive, it is not irreparable, and thankfully, the Philippine eagles living in the mountain were unharmed. The government has since taken steps to rehabilitate damaged areas, as well as recruit and orient volunteers for emergencies such as this.

READ: IN PHOTOS: Why It's Always Beautiful Waking Up to Mt. Apo's Stunning View

Choose Philippines believes in always traveling responsibly. Let us all work together to ensure that tragedies to our environment such as the recent wildfire in Mt. Apo never happen again. We salute the brave men who risked their lives so that others may continue to marvel at the beauty of Mt. Apo: Jodel Erano, Ed Falco, Alvin Masicampo, Benie Andacao, Junsay Te, Marilou Buyo, Jenilyn Anday, Noel Emao, Bobby Ontic, Gilbert Joaquin, Leah Antala, Loreto Andian, Arnel Alod, Charlito Angit, Jelmar Tayo, Litoowis, Jaime Salip Jr., Kit Tyron Ambe, Ambrosio Maway Jr., Rene Ancia, Marjun Andian, Randy Ago, Brendo Olin, Roland Andian, Jomar Languban, Romnick Atos, Danilo Calamania, Nicel Ambe, Gina Ado, Delfin Emao, Nancy Masicampo, Carlos Salinde, Celso Pineda, Mario Angga, Datu Hernan Ambe, and Shirley Camana.

Read Related Stories: 

A Balikbayan’s View at the Top of the Philippines' Highest Peak

IN PHOTOS: Why It's Always Beautiful Waking Up to Mt. Apo's Stunning View 

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