MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 January) — In response to the declaration of the Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park as an ASEAN Heritage Site, local trail run enthusiasts will hold next month the 1st Kitanglad International Rugged Mountain Race, an event they hope would launch Bukidnon as an international sports tourism destination.
The 17-kilometer race will take place on February 27, from the foot of Mt. Kitanglad in Base Camp, Intavas, Impasug-ong town to its summit (2,899 meters above sea level) and back.
Rachito Abellanosa, one of the lead organizers told MindaNews Saturday 80 runners, including four Kenyans have so far registered. A maximum of 300 participants will be admitted to the race.
He said the race intends to promote Mt. Kitanglad Range and help raise funds for the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers and the indigenous peoples around the park.
In 2009, the ASEAN Biodiversity Center declared Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park as an ASEAN Heritage Park, integrating it into the regional grouping’s priorities for biodiversity conservation.
Felix Mirasol, park superintendent, told MindaNews in September last year that among the areas considered for development is the park’s big potential for eco-tourism.
Mt. Kitanglad Range was proclaimed a protected area under the natural park category through Presidential Proclamation 896 dated October 24, 1996. On November 9, 2000, it became a full-pledge protected area through Republic Act 8978 also known as the Mt. Kitanglad Range Protected Area Act of 2000.
The race aims to improve the skills of local trail and mountain runners and make them at par with international standard.
Abellanosa said Bukidnon has all the ingredients to be a tourist destination for emerging sports favorites like paragliding, trail running, biking, horseback riding and vertical running.
He said they got the inspiration from Sabah’s Kota Kinabalu sports tourism attractions, which has drawn enthusiasts to Malaysia’s famous mountain.
He said Bukidnon could learn from the experience of Sabah in sports tourism.
“We are somehow looking at building Big Brother relations with the stakeholders there, learn from them, and see what we can bring in,” he added.
As an ASEAN Heritage Park, he said, Mt. Kitanglad is the perfect local counterpart, which is expected to help boost the province’s tourism industry and economy.
The group has dubbed Mt. Kitanglad the “toughest mountain running trail in the country”.
Seven of the ten highest mountains in the Philippines are in Mindanao, and four of them are in Bukidnon, Abellanosa said.
The highest peak in Mt. Kitanglad Range, Mt. Dulang-dulang in Lantapan town, is 2,938 meters above sea level and is the second highest in the country.
“Our mountains play a great role as Mindanao’s watershed and headwater of four major river systems,” he added.
According to its website, the race is a combined effort of sports enthusiast Benjamin Maputi, Abellanosa’s Ohana Adventures Destination Management Group, the Protected Area Management Board, the province of Bukidnon, and the municipalities of Impagug-ong, Manolo Fortich, Sumilao, Lantapan, Libona and Malaybalay City.
Registration for the race is pegged at P1,200 per person.
Abellanosa assured that the indigenous peoples, who claim the whole park as their ancestral domain will not be bypassed in the promotion of Kitanglad as a sports tourism destination and will benefit from it.
He also assured the race will respect their culture. A day before the race, organizers and participants will take part in a tribal ritual.
The organizers also promised to share the proceeds to the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers, who are safeguarding the park with support from the Protected Area Management Board. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)