Sabal brothers win int’l Mt. Apo challenge

STA. CRUZ, Davao del Sur (MindaNews/29 April) — Brothers Cresenciano and Gerald Sabal of Team Bebang from Manila outpaced defending champion Jonathan Pido of Team Carmen (Davao del Norte) and his partner in the 2nd International Boulder Face Challenge, a 24-hour endurance race from the town proper to the peak of Mt. Apo and back.

The brothers finished the race in 15 hours, 38 minutes and 33 seconds, ahead by at least 21 minutes from the second-placer.

Of 44 teams when the event kicked off on Saturday morning, 19 teams had finished the race as of 2:30 pm Sunday while 10 other teams quit  the race, said Tourism Officer Camilia Infiesto.

Thirty-year old Cresenciano told Mindanews it was their first time to reach the summit of Mt. Apo. He described the trek as grueling since it was raining when they reached the peak.

Team Carmen racers Ronald Dagaang and Jonathan Pido celebrate as they are about to cross the finish line in front of the Sta. Cruz town hall in Davao del Sur. Team Carmen won second place in the 2nd International Boulder Face challenge on April 28-29, 2012. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday MoreThe brothers, both enlisted personnel at the Philippine Army,  prepared for only 15 days and it was even more on running because they had no mountains to climb in Metro Manila.

“Actually it was also our first time to race using bikes. We were the 18th  team to reach Barangay Sibulan,” said Cresenciano, dubbed as the “National Milo Marathon King.”

The Sabal brothers, who hail from Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat. The 30-year old Cresenciano is a corporal while 28-year old Gerald is a Private First Class.

The brothers were backed by Jhanalodin Lucman, a logistics crew. Each team has two racers and a logistics crew.

The Sabals represented their province in the Palarong Pambansa several times.

Team Bebang finished the race with a total clock time of 15:38:33 followed by Team Carmen composed of racers Jonathan Pido, Ronald Dagaang and logistics crew Edwin Bueno with a total time of 15:59:18.

Team Apo Ville racers Marcial Catanggui and Romeo Mascardo Jr. celebrate as they are about to cross the finish line in front of the Sta. Cruz town hall in Davao del Sur. Team Carmen won third place in the International Boulder Face challenge on April 28-29, 2012. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

The third placer is Team Apo Ville from Digos, Davao del Sur composed of racers Marcial Catanggui, Romeo Mascardo Jr., and logistics crew Hilario Ladra.

On Saturday, Pido and Dagaang  were the first to reach the boulders area with the Sabal brothers tailing them by 10 minutes.

Pido is a policeman while Dagaang works as a bank security guard.

Cresenciano recalled they were able to overtake Team Carmen on their way down at Checkpoint 14 in Sitio Tumpis in Barangay Kapatagan, already part of Digos City.

He said they arrived at the Ayala Staff house around 8 p.m.or 15 hours after the race started.

Since it was already two hours after the cut-off time, racers were no longer allowed to proceed to the water tubing event. Instead, the race resumed 5a.m. the following day.

The 27-year old Dagaang, also a triathlete, told MindaNews that  pebbles and sand got into his shoes. “Amo pa man gitanggal ang balas sa sulod kay sakit man sa akong tiil kung di tanggalon. Didto mi nila na-abtan” (we removed the pebbles and sand in my shoes because it was painful), he said.

Dagaang said they made a dry run of the trail a month before the race.

He said he also trained with Pido for a week, particularly on biking.

The race started at 6 a.m. on Saturday with a biking challenge from the town hall to Barangay Sibulan proper, some 18 kilometers away.

From the barangay hall, the racers started the grueling trek to the peak of Mt. Apo navigating through the rugged terrain, rivers, forest and the boulders.

Upon reaching the summit, racers headed back to Sibulan. Water tubing started from Ayala Staff house to the Sibulan bridge along the national highway, and from there run for 12 kilometers to the finish line in front of the town hall.

The race had 20 checkpoints.

Foreign athletes were tough competitors, too, said Cresnciano.

He said their opponents were strong athletes, particularly members of the Champion System Adventure from Hong Kong.

“Some foreigners are really strong but some of them may have been attracted to the scenic view of the mountain. Some were busy taking pictures,” he said.

Hong Kong-based Champion System Adventure racers Piers Touzel and Ryan Blair finished fifth place in the International Boulder Face challenge on April 28-29, 2012. They were among the 11 foreign teams who raced with Filipino athletes in the 24-hour endurance race. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday More.

Champion System Adventure racers Ryan Blair and Piers Touzel finished fifth place.

Touzel, an Australian national based in China, described the race as one of the toughest he has ever joined.

“The jungle trail was the toughest but coming down was the hardest. And we also lost our way but the locals helped us,” said the Australian who is known to be one of the top mountain bikers in Asia.

But he also admitted that he also enjoyed the view while being on top of the Mt. Apo.

The event’s website,,says the 24-hour endurance race covers around 70 to 80 kilometers. The event was organized by the Department of Tourism Xl and local government of Sta.Cruz.

The champion team gets P150,000 while the second and third placers get P100,000 and P75,000, respectively.

The top five finishers will also receive consolation prizes of P10,000 each.

The elder Sabal said they might  use the prize to buy their own mountain bike. “We may also use it to fund our trainings and other needs like our vitamins.”  (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)