Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines and the second in all of Southeast Asia. It is a large solfataric potentially active stratovolcano on the island of Mindanao. It is claimed by the provincial government of Davao, which according to them, belongs to its jurisdiction. For the natives, it is known to be the kingdom of the mountain god, Apo Sandawa.
Mt. Apo is 10,311 ft above sea level with a vast area of 72, 796 hectares of mossy tropical forest, flowing rivers & streams, waterfalls, exotic flora & fauna and is home to the endagered Philippine eagle. Its name means “master” or “grandfather”. Mt. Apo overlooks Davao City which is 40 km northeast, Digos City which is 25 km southeast and Kidapawan City which is 20 km west.
The peak of Mt. Apo is flat topped and is capped with a 500 m wide volcanic crater containing a small crater lake. It has three peaks and is a source of geothermal energy. The date of the most recent eruption of Mt. Apo is unknown and none were verified in historical times.
Mt. Apo is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the Philippines since the summit is easy to reach. The best month for climbing would be April but it can be climbed year-round. History has it that the first recoded climb was a party led by Don Joaquin Rajal in October 10, 1880. There are several trails that would lead to the summit, coming from North Cotabato and Davao provinces. Average hike requires 2-4 days depending on the pace of the hikers and the trail. According to many backpackers and hikers, the difficulty of the hike is 7 out of 10.
Mt. Apo was declared a national park by President Manuel L. Quezon last May 9, 1936. Since then it has been a home to over 270 bird species (which include the famous Philippine Eagles) with more than a hundred that are being endemic. The Mt. Apo natural park includes 629 species under 148 families of vascular and non vascular plants. Five hundred seventy two species belong to 124 families of ferns and angiosperms, while 57 species belong to 24 families of bryophytes or mosses.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has submitted Mt. Apo for inclusion in the UNESCO world heritage list. The Banaue Rice Terraces and Palawan Underground River were already inscribed by UNESCO among many others. Some considered Mt. Apo as the center of endemism in Mindanao and also being the highest land-based biological diversity when it comes to flora and fauna per unit areas. It has three distinct formations which are the lowland tropical forests, mid-mountain forests and high mountain forests.
Though declared as National Park, the current climbing trails are littered with rubbish, opening paths for soil erosion across the already denuded mountain sides. There are also some garbage piled up near the shores of Lake Venado (one of the highest lakes in the Philippines) which is supposed to be hauled out but many ignore this requirement.
Getting to Mt. Apo would take 1.5 hours from Manila through air via Davao City. If you want to take the Digos-Kidapawan trail from Davao City, take a cab which will take you to Ecoland Bus Terminal and look for a Digos Bound Bus. While in Digos, Davao del Sur, ask the locals for a direction of the terminal where you can take a public van transport bound for Kapatagan. Once you arrive at Kapatagan, find a ride going to Sitio Marawer which can either be a jeepney or a motorcycle for hire. Pay a visit to the Barangay Officials at Marawer so they can help you if ever you’ll need reliable porters or guides.
Alternatively you can also take the easiest route to Mt. Apo National Park which is through Kidapawan City. They city has Summer Climb or the Annual October Trek / Climb which you can participate. Starting point would be Lake Agco Resort, where tourists can dip in to the hot and warm pools sourced from the local hot springs.
Tips in climbing Mt Apo
- Make yourself comfortable by wearing comfortable shoes and clothes.
- Don’t be in a hurry to climb and reach the summit.
- Don’t forget to bring rain gears and there will be unexpected rains from time to time.
- Bring your own small tent
- Bring a spare dry socks which you can use at night
- If don’t want to bring your baggage, hire a porter for P200.00 with food per day. That way you can help the locals earn money and you can also take some pictures along the way.
- If you decide to take the Kidapawan trail, make sure to check in at the tourist center so they can organize a guide for P500.00 per day.
Come and Explore Mt. Apo!