Monday, May 11, 2015

1st. Mt. Apo Sky & Vertical Race 21K: Running to Tawsuvan Falls

Day 1 (May 1, 2015)

"Wala may Tawsuvan Falls diri (There is no Tawsuvan Falls in this place)", the motorcycle driver answered when I told him our destination. "Kadto bitaw agion sa Brngy. Tagbac? (The one that can be accessed through Brngy. Tagbac?), I replied. "Ah, Bongolanon Falls diay (Ah, that's Bongolanon Falls). He then quoted us a price of P100 pesos per person one way (or 200 pesos round trip) and seconds later, Malou and I are already backriding on his motorcycle speeding up to the highland villages at the foot of Mount Apo.

Two hours earlier, we arrived at our host's home in the town proper of Magpet, Cotabato. My wife and I are here to join the 1st Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race. The run has two categories: 42K for hardcore mountain runners with turning point at the summit of the Philippine's highest peak; and 21K for trail running newbies, with turning point at Tawsuvan Falls nestled on the mountain's foot. We chose the less intimidating half-marathon distance as I know I am not conditioned enough to conquer the 42K trail within the required 14-hour cut-off. Also, I personally prefer reaching the peak (someday) by hiking as I know I could appreciate and enjoy more its beauty by taking the long and slow route.

The afternoon before the race, we decided to visit Tawsuvan Falls by hiring a passenger motorcycle locally known as "skylab" (or habal-habal in other places). Our intention is not only to get a first look of the route but also to take a dip at the waters of the falls.


Tawsuvan Falls is about 13.5 kilometers from Magpet proper. After passing Tagbac Elementary School, the alternating dirt and paved roads went mostly uphill. Not a surprise though as we're going up to 1,000 meters ++ above sea level. The air gets colder as we entered the Mt. Apo Natural Park premises. Passing through the ever ascending road gave me goosebumps as I think about this challenging route we're going to traverse on foot the following day. At one point, just before reaching the falls, the driver had to let us disembark from his motorcycle so he could maneuver safely on the steepest part.



After registering our names in the logbook and paying the entrance fee of P20.00 per person, Malouand I made our way down the concrete steps leading to the falls. Midway through our descent, Tawsuvan Falls can already be viewed in all its glory, sliding down 30 meters through the rock walls sandwiched by green vegetation. Seeing it from the distance made me excited to get nearer and savor its beauty.



As I expected, several race participants were already there ahead of us. Thankfully, they're just about to leave when we arrived. And when the group left, Malou and I had Tawsuvan Falls all to ourselves!


The bad news though is that the dark clouds formation up above are already turning into a drizzle. So after taking a few photos, we wasted no time in taking a dip at Tawsuvan's natural pool. The water is freezing cold which comes as no surprise since it is flowing down from the rainforest of Mount Apo. So we soaked on its coldness and savored the tranquility it offers.


Much as we would like to stay longer, we have to cut our swimming short as the rain started to pour harder. After changing clothes in one of the nearby cottages, we climbed back to the entrance and waited for about 30 minutes for the rain to subside.


Going back to Magpet was much harder since the road is now downhill and slippery. At one point the motorcycle nearly slid, but thankfully the driver skillfully regained his balance. We just made a short stop at Tagbac Elementary School to claim our race kit before heading back to our host's home in the town proper.

Day 2 (May 2, 2014)

We arrived at Tagbac Elementary School, where the race will start and finish, exactly 30 minutes before gun start. It gave us plenty of time to warm up and meet other runners, including my friends Rose and Mark Buenconsejo from Cebu City, the couple behind running websites runroo.com and aktib.ph. 56 out of the 60 registered runners showed up for the race. At 5:30 AM, the 21K race promptly started.

Photos from ruroo.com/aktib.ph

Malou and I started slow at the rear then inched slowly at the middle as the ascent started. We broke away from the crowd midway through the first uphill and as we already have an idea of the route, started to run-walk to conserve our energy for more hills ahead. I would have wanted to pull away but Malou asked me to run along with her at least until the turning point. So we paced along and as we slowly caught up with the leading female runners, I thought she might have a chance to finish in the Top 3.

The gray clouds shielded us from the rays of the sun majority of the race. It was a treat running on high altitude with the view of the mountains, banana and runner plantations and friendly locals inviting us to stop for awhile for breakfast and coffee. These are just some of the reasons why I love countryside races--the smell of fresh air, the reinvigorating scenery and genuinely friendly locals making up for a truly rave running experience.


At the 1st aid station, about 5 KM++ from the starting line, the organizer told us that Malou is the second female runner to pass. We could still see the first runner at a distance while 2 others are trailing not far behind. We just maintain our easy run-walk pace as the hills got steeper and steeper until after one hour and forty one minutes, we reached the turning point at Tawsuvan Falls.

The race route traced by my phone's GPS

After a quick picture-taking, we replenished our water bottles, ate bananas and eggs then climbed back the stairs up to the falls' entrance. From the turning point, I have a hunch that I still could make it to the Top 10. As we started our descent back to the finish line, Malou allowed me to go ahead as she is now more familiar with the route and confident in running alone.

The altitude chart of the 21K race 

So I quickened my pace as the route is now much easier with plenty of downhills. I still have to be careful though because of the presence of loose rocks on the grounds. I still walked on the steep ascending parts then made up for it by speeding on the flat and downhill portions.

At the last 3 kilometers, I overtook the leading female runner which I believed was the Top 10 overall. Then at the last kilometer I could already spot who I though was the 9th placer. I gave up my chase though as I know I do not have enough time to catch him before the finish. I am also contented with the thought that I am safely in the 10th place as this would be the very first time I would be in such position in all major races I joined.

Photos from the race organizer

I crossed the finish line at  2:58:08, my slowest 21K yet. To my surprise I was officially Top 9 overall and it made me even more happy with my accomplishment. Four minutes later, Malou arrived at 3:02:27 which made her the 2nd place winner in female category and 11th place overall.

After claiming our finisher's medals, shirts and Malou's 2nd place trophy, we went back to the home of our host to take a bath change clothes as we still have to catch the bus going back home. Thankfully we made it to the bus terminal just as the Bukidnon-bound bus is about to leave. Though tired from the long and rough run we had earlier, my wife and I are very much thankful for another wonderful experience of exploring a new place through running.

My heartfelt thanks to Engr. Carol Sorrosa and her husband Sir Eisen for accomodating us in Magpet.

Travel Tips:

1. Magpet is about 11 kilometers from Kidapawan City. From Kidapawan City, take a tricycle ride to the terminal of motorcycles bound for Magpet. Fare from Kidapawan to Magpet is only 20 pesos.


2. From Magpet town proper, you may hire another motorcycle (locally called "skylab") going to Tawsuvan Falls. We were charged with 200.00 round trip pesos per person but you can probably haggle to make it more affordable. Travel time is at most 30 minutes.

3. Tawsuvan Falls is more popularly known as Bongolanon Falls among Magpet locals.

4. Entrance fee to the falls is 20 pesos. If you intend to stay overnight, entrance is 40 pesos. You may stay at one of the open cottages or pitch your tent on the grounds.

5. A sari-sari store sells snacks and drinks near Tawsuvan Falls entrance.

6. Where to stay in Magpet:

Joylex Tourist Inn, 
Alson St. Magpet, Cotabato
9 rooms non-aircon, only P250
6 aircon rooms, only P400
Each room 2-3 person
Owner, Rose Acumpaniado +63-9498142784, Tata Acumpaniado +63-9102056262
   

1 comment :

  1. I've never been into the place you featured, but this gave me an idea about the next tourist spot that our family should visit.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Infolinks In Text Ads