Kan-irag Peak: A Call for Responsible Hiking

“Sirao is no longer beautiful as it used to be.”
I was alarmed by this private message when I was invited as a guide for Kan-irag Peak or Sirao Peak. It saddened me because I felt I have a deep connection with this mountain. Kan-irag Peak has been a witness of my climbing escapades for 4 years. It watched me grow. It made me stronger. It made me contemplate my inner strength. I should say that Kan-irag Peak had been with me during my solo climbs, lost and found moments and hiking with friends and new acquaintances.
I could recall the beauty it possessed when I started to trek the river and all the way to Kabang Falls up to the “New Zealand-like” landscape lined with pine trees and flower farms. I saw the river overflow and dry. I climbed up and down the waterfall boulder and deep ravine when it was super dry and super slippery. I was awed by the beauty of the flowers and the green grasses. I was there when Kan-irag Peak surrendered to the foggy air, light drizzles and hard rains. I watched its magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Kan-irag  Peak continuously inspire me to keep up and climb on to reach her peak.
Now the picture: I saw a post from a certain social media about camping in Kan-irag Peak. I had mixed emotions. I was happy that at last the mountain gained a reputation for camping. Meaning, people are now becoming aware about nature, hiking and climbing and the likes. However, I was worried. Can the mountain keep up its beauty and charm with the influx of hikers coming in to visit her? I sighed.
One way to find out is to visit her again. I accepted the invitation to be my friend’s guide. From 10 people invited, we were down to four. I was relieved from the bigger group. I was saved from the bigger responsibility. The hike commenced sometime at 10 or 11 in the morning. Thursday. I asked the “habal-habal” or motorbike driver if we still needed to register at the Barangay office. He told me it was no longer necessary. (Take note of the incident last year that a foreign climber together with a Filipina climber were victims for theft. The thieves weren’t successful because the foreigner was an ex-military. Imagine what happened during that day.)
We were already at Barangay Baugo. I noticed that there were locals who were waiting for climbers. They asked our group if we were looking for a guide. I declined. Anyway, the guys I was with were cool. They were right behind me and following directions. They never complained. I was happy for that. I basically told them what they were to expect – river trekking, water falls, climbing up and down, and the do’s and don’ts.
We finally reached Kabang Falls. That was where I began to feel emotional. Trashes hidden under the big boulders – cigarette butts and cases, water bottles, junk food wrappers, fastfood cartons and even tissue papers. How can we keep up the beauty of nature if men are responsible for its downfall? I looked at some other people around – swimming, taking pictures, eating and some others talking meters away from the visible garbage. Instagrammable and Facebook photos are for fool-proof. The real and concrete issue existed in nature becoming a dumping site for hikers or maybe to locals. With the black garbage bag in hand, I patiently picked the trashes and placed them in the black bag. Admittedly, I was cursing. I was disappointed. I was angry. I was boiling inside. How many irresponsible hikers are attempting to stay in Kabang Falls and climb Kan-irag Peak? I hope they wouldn’t multiply. I hope they wouldn’t come. I hope they could just stay outside the parameters of this mountain.
We were back to trekking again. I explained to my fellow hikers the advocacy for clean hiking, the principle of nature and even told them a story how a friend of mine decided to do a solo climb just to clean up the place and the trail for two consecutive days. I told them those stories with conviction so that they may pass it on to others who wanted to trek and climb the mountain, as well.
We had stopovers – 7/11 (the store where I happened to know Nanay Merla) and to the shoulder of Kan-irag Peak (that very spot where you can see the clear view of the city). It was already 4 when we decided for an assault. It was still hot. It was draining in my part – I was carrying my tent and the group’s provision. But I kept moving. I saw the group reached Kan-irag Peak's summit. I was happy for them. It was an achievement on my part, too. I brought them to every mountaineer’s playground. I was awed by these young men.
We pitched our tents and basically waited for the night to succumb the day. We watched the sunset and how it colored the horizon. We had our little dinner. We were awed by the bright Luna floating in the night sky as it illumined the sea. We watched the city lights one by one flickering.  We had a good night sleep.
The next day came and we witnessed an awesome transformation of the sky. Shades of orange, yellow, and red as the Sun, little by little, paved its way and out from the horizon. It was a glorious day! We had a hearty breakfast. A great chitchat before we decided to break camp and climbed down. As I was looking at the camping area, I saw a signboard that reminded every hiker to dispose their trash properly. At least, an initiative from a mountaineering group. I was thankful.
Unfortunately, when we were climbing down, the group saw a trash bag filled with trashes thrown at the right side of the grassy area meters down the peak. I shook my head. They couldn’t follow instructions and they couldn’t understand responsible hiking. They should be abducted and banished away from the mountains and hills.

This article is not a guide for hiking but for responsible hiking. Let us keep in mind that “Nature can Exist without Humans” but “Humans can’t Exist Without Nature.” Let us take care of whatever nature offers us. Let us not exploit God’s creation. Let us protect them instead. I call for responsible hiking. Learn the principle, “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photographs. Kill nothing but time.” Be a responsible hiker! 
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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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  1. Good Article , an eye opener for responsible hikers. If you care for nature don't throw your trash anywhere. Thanks

    1. Thank you, Rhey. I hope people who want to climb and trek are responsible enough...