By Bert Eljera
In June two years ago, 99 climbers simultaneously scaled Mt. Kapudlusan in Maydolong in a coordinated national effort to set a world record in mountain climbing.
Dubbed the “Freedom Climb 2011,” the event was held to coincide with the 113th Independence Day celebration and set a record of the most number of people hiking up several mountains at the same time.
In all, 6,700 Filipino climbers successfully climbed 70 mountains that day, surpassing the previous record of 6,000 climbers set in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
But while one purpose of the climb was to set the record, the more important mission was to bring awareness to protecting the environment, organizers said.
Events like this generate employment among locals,” said Floyd Ramos of the Borongan Awareness on Nature and Outdoor Group (BANOG). “This also draws them nearer to the environment and makes them understand the reason why we have to protect it.
Thanks mainly to groups like BANOG, the Allince of Filipino Mountaineers Inc., Centro Outdoors, and the Samar Island Natural Park, mountain climbing, trekking and other outdoor sports have become popular in Eastern Samar.
It is another facet of ecotourism that needs to be promoted and encouraged to grow for its positive impact on livelihood programs and weaning off local folks from destructive practices, such slash-and-burn farming, and charcoal-making.
A favorite hiking route is through the Borongan-Llorente Closed Canopy Forest, one of the remaining low-land rain-forest in the country, and situated within the Samar Island Natural Park.
Rising to a height of 470 meters, Mt. Kapudlusan is one of 28 mountains in Eastern Samar, many of them still not fully explored yet.
Peakery.com has three on its list of world mountains – Mt. Bingo and Mt. Canmaasim, both in Jipapad, and Mt. Pacgem is Nena, San Julian.
Although not on Peakery’s list, Mt. Capoto-on, near Jipapad, is one of the tallest in Samar Island and 419th highest in the Philippines at 3,898 feet.
Other well-known mountains are Mt. Mactaon, Mt. Yacgem, Mt. Bihag, Mt. Caputian, Mt. Lonhi and Mt. Sohoton.