Love for the rock

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Last October, the SPOT project was officially launched at The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival on Kalymnos Island in Greece through the non-profit organization Climbers Without Borders and the Once Upon A Climb initiative of James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini.

SPOT is the acronym for Share, Progress, Open and Teach. It’s a movement to spot or assist the growth of sport climbing in developing countries of which the Philippines was selected to become the first beneficiary, reports Climb Philippines webmaster Ina Flores-Pahati.

Rock climbing traces its roots in the Philippines to the 1980s with the University of the Philippines Mountaineers. This pioneering group of intrepid adventurers went from traditional mountaineering to more challenging climbs and more dangerous terrain. A basic mountaineering course was offered by the UP climbers based on Alan Blackshaw’s 1966 manual and as the fever caught on, climbing routes were carved out of the crags of Rodriguez, Rizal, formerly known as Montalban. The fever eventually became a craze, or something like it, as climbers ventured to discover more caves and cliffs in various parts of the archipelago.

In 1993, the country’s first artificial climbing facility was opened and brought attention to the new indoor sport. In 1998, the Sports Climbing Association of the Philippines was established to coordinate the activities of climbers and set safety standards across the board. While recreational climbers enjoyed scaling indoors, the more serious adventurers got together for competitions in the open, collegiate and junior categories. Before long, Filipino climbers began representing the country at the World Cup and the Asian X Games.

What makes rock climbing even more attractive in the Philippines is the beauty of nature everywhere. There are climbing routes along 200-foot cliffs rising above rivers, mountain sides with breathtaking views and terrain that is both exciting and dangerous. It’s an activity that closely relates with the country’s sports tourism efforts. Climbers from all over the world will want to try the Philippine routes not only because they’re challenging but also because they’re a sight to behold.

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Ina says last year, the climbing community in the country got a huge boost when Pearson, Ciavaldini and documentation specialist FotoVertical went on a deep-water soloing exploration at El Nido. The team is also spearheading the SPOT project here with Ina’s husband Miel, an active mover of the sport. They’ve been working together over the last four months to visit climbing sites and share their experiences with a world-wide audience.

This month, Pearson and Ciavaldini climbed with locals in Baguio then flew to Cebu where they were joined by the first Asian Sport Climbing world champion Yuji Hirayama in tracking new outdoor climbing destinations. On Sunday, Pearson and Ciavaldini will talk about the SPOT project and relate what they’ve experienced in traveling around the country during a press conference at ROX on Fort Bonifacio High Street around noontime. Ina and Miel will also be at the press conference to answer questions about Climb Philippines.

“The SPOT project is expected to pump a new energy into the rock climbing scene in the Philippines which is now approximately 20 years old,” says Ina. “By providing climbing material, developing new outdoor areas and most importantly, giving inspiration to the Filipino climbers, Climb Philippines looks forward to more exciting times in Philippine rock climbing.”

In explaining Climb Philippines’ dream, Ina notes: “It’s not about ticking off routes but about cultivating relationships as the routes get ticked. Find yourself in Mindanao? Explore the rocks of Iligan, ride to Cagayan de Oro, dip in the natural hot springs and cap the trip off in Bukidnon. If you’re in Cebu, thread your way from Mansorella to Cantabaco to Poog and take a breather in any of Cebu’s fantastic beaches if your fingers are calling for rest. If you’re flying in at the capital city, work your way up from Manila to Bulacan’s riverside boulders then up north to chlly Baguio and further up in the quiet town of Sagada. All in between, as you make your way from one crag to the next, mingle with the friendly folks, eat local delicacies, drink San Miguel beer and take in the native culture. At least, that’s how we picture climbing in the Philippines to be. Just like that – but with at least 50 more crags and a hundred more side trips that climbers can map out to plan their own unique adventure.”

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All is set for the media launch of the Classic Cup – the much-awaited golf tournament pitting alumni from La Salle and Ateneo – at the Cameron Forbes Room of the Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park next Thursday, March 5, at 9 a.m.

Qualified to play are alumni from any of the Ateneo or La Salle schools in the country. Except for a few years, this event has been staged annually since its inception in 1984. The tournament is set on March 27 at the Eagle Ridge Golf and Country Club. Tee-times are 7 a.m. on the Faldo course, 7:15 a.m. on the Aoki course and 7:30 a.m. on the Norman course.

The pre-registration fee is P3,000 payable on or before March 16. The regular registration fee is P3,500 from March 17 onwards. A student or Eagle Ridge member pays a registration fee of P1,800. La Salle is the defending champion. For the La Salle side, the funds generated from the Classic Cup are used to support the La Salle students who participate in interscholastic and intercollegiate golf tournaments.

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