On January 22, 2018, flames engulfed Saddle Camp of Mt. Pulag and razed at least five hectares of grasslands. The cause was a butane gas stove which had allegedly exploded, and the seven hikers from Cebu who were said to be responsible for the incident can possibly face criminal charges.
"The DENR recognizes the impact the fire had on the national park and we will pursue all legal avenues to bring those responsible to account," said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in a statement. “Mt. Pulag has one of the richest biodiversities from the foot of the mountain to its summit and we must all be responsible agents for its conservation.”
Mountain climbing and trail hiking often means going into villages and summits that experience very minimal outside disturbances, therefore, you need to know what to do and what not to do before heading up.
1. Respect the locals, and greet them when you pass through their villages.
When heading to your destination, you'll likely pass through several small villages, and there will be times when you’ll need to prep a little (take a drink, maybe use the restroom) before finally heading to your trailhead or jump-off point. Treat those you meet and those who welcome you into their homes with respect. Remember, you’re the visitor, so be on your best behavior and mind your manners when you're offered hospitality through food and shelter, and remember to share what you can with them as well.
2. “Matutong makisama.”
“Siyempre may kanya-kanyang trip ‘yan.” Cheryl shared an example: some hikers like working the trail with music, while some like to do so in silence. In the end, it’s all about compromise. If you like listening to your favorite tunes, lower the volume so as not to disturb other groups, and remember to keep the noise at a minimum when people are starting to settle in for the night at camp. “Kaunting respeto na lang sa trip ng iba.”
3. Greet your fellow mountaineers.
At some point going up or down the summit, you’ll cross paths with other groups. A simple “Good morning” or “Ingat” can foster camaraderie among groups, and even give that needed push to go on.
Also, as a feature on REI Co-op Journal notes, "...hikers going uphill have the right of way. This is because in general hikers heading up an incline have a smaller field of vision and may also be in that 'hiking rhythm' zone and not in the mood to break their pace. Often an uphill hiker may let others come downhill while they take a breather, but remember that’s the uphill hiker’s call."
4. Respect the beliefs that surround the mountain you’re about to climb.
Mountains are often rich with legends, and it shouldn’t matter whether you believe in them or not—you must follow the age-old practices that come with some of the stories out of respect for the locals. For example, “sa Mt. Kalawitan, bawal kang magdala ng isda,” Cheryl said. “Kasi ayon sa paniniwala, ‘pag nagdala ka ng isda doon, magtatampo ‘yung mga diyos. Mawawala ‘yung life sa mga ilog… matutuyo.”
5. "Don’t feed the animals."
You’ll cross paths with a lot of animals during your journey, but it’s best to leave them to their own devices. “Kasi masasanay sila… Masisira ‘yung diet nila saka ‘yung hunting skills nila.”
6. "Remember the LNT (Leave No Trace) Principle."
“’Pack it in, pack it out.’ What you bring, you take home with you.” This means that you’re not allowed to leave anything you carried with you on the mountain. “’Pag nag-set-up ng camp, make sure na kaunti lang ‘yung maiiwan na trace. May camp area, ‘wag ka nang gagawa ng sarili mong lugar. Minimize ‘yung maiiwan na bakas. Huwag magbo-bonfire sa bundok, kasi malaki ang chance na magka-forest fire. Use lamps and utilize your headlamps.”
It also follows that you shouldn’t take anything that isn’t yours with you. “’Wag kang kukuha ng kahit ano sa bundok,” Cheryl said as she closed with the saying, “‘Take only pictures, leave only footprints.’”