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Amazing cycling race for Mt. Makiling rehab
By Maricar Cinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:40:00 11/25/2009
Filed Under: Cycling
EQUIPPED ONLY WITH A compass, biking enthusiasts pedaled through Mt. Makiling to complete the 15 pit stops in a 45-kilometer race up and down the summit.
Eleven pairs of mountain bikers from Manila, Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna joined the Maquiling Quest, an adventure competition that was started in 2002 by the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems-University of the Philippines Los Baños (MCME-UPLB) and the municipal government.
“We used to have celebrities and reporters in what was like an ‘Amazing Race’ (a popular reality game show) where they had to complete challenges before they could proceed to the next stop,” said organizer Roberto Cereno.
On Nov. 21, the race required not only stamina but also mental ability in a merger of mountain biking and orienteering. It also coincided with the 99th anniversary of the proclamation of Mt. Makiling as a forest reserve for science and research study.
Makiling, a potentially active volcano rising 1,090 meters above sea level and covering 4,244 hectares in the towns of Los Baños and Bay towns and Calamba City in Laguna and Sto. Tomas town in Batangas, is the only intact forest reserve in the country.
“We want to promote Mt. Makiling as an ecotourism destination, for hiking and bird-watching,” he added.
Makiling suffered grave damages wrought by Typhoon “Milenyo” (International name: Xangsane) in 2006. Fourteen people residing in the mountain died and the damaged trails have yet to be completely restored.
Cereno said Milenyo was considered the worst typhoon to hit Makiling, dumping 400 ml of rainfall in two hours. In September, Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (Ketsana) rained 400 ml of water in eight hours.
The normal rainfall there is only at 2,500 ml per year.
“With Ondoy, we have once again proven its worth as a forest reserve,” Cereno said.
The mountain acts like a sponge that absorbs the rainfall before the water is gradually released through the tributaries, thus preventing flash floods and landslides in the lower areas, he said.
If not for its presence, Los Baños and Bay towns, and Calamba would have been totally washed out at the onslaught of Ondoy.
“With these damages to Mt. Makiling that is already in its pristine state, how much more could have happened to other forests? That’s why we also want to create public awareness. While they’re enjoying nature, people are being educated [on forest preservation],” Cereno said.
The funds raised from the registration fees and sponsorships will be used to rehabilitate the mountain trails, he said.
The bikers also had their share of the task by each planting a tree sapling at the Agila base, the final pit stop closest to the highest peak, before heading back to the starting point at the UP College of Forestry and Natural Resources.
The map was designed through a global positioning system with 15 control points designed by the UP Outdoor Recreation Group (UP ORG) and the UP Mountaineers.
In each stop, the bikers were only given the bearing, or clues indicating degrees and distance to the next control point. The control points or pit stops were placed at random spots.
“If they were good navigators, they could even find shortcuts,” said Dr. Abe Padilla, a professor at UP Manila and member of UP ORG.
Whreachelle Cordova, 27, and her male partner were the first to hit the finish line.
Cordova, who is from Manila, is a member of the Philippine Mountain Biking Forum. She regularly bikes since 2006.
“It was my first time [in Makiling and] I enjoyed it,” she said, despite stumbling as she sped down the rocky trail.
Padilla said the entire leg was expected to be completed in three hours, but the actual race took the participants six hours.
Only five teams completed the course. Organizers had to cut off the race at 3 p.m. as fog began to cloud the trail and dump rains.
Some bikers collapsed, while others got lost.
“We had overturns. We got lost in the second and third control points because we went to the opposite direction of the trail,” said Chris Paragas, 26, of the mountaineering group from Mapua Institute of Technology.
Sunday Ombrob, 33, and his partner Edison Tesco, 41, who are members of the Makiling Campus Runners based in Los Baños, won third place despite using an old compass and a piece of paper as ruler that even astounded the organizers.
“This is not only a race, but it also has an environmental [advocacy],” said Padilla.
“We are joining again next year,” said Cordova, after beating the rest of the male
Philippine Daily Inquirer
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