SAN PEDRO, Laguna—The week-long search for Victor Joel Ayson, the mountaineer who disappeared while trekking on Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas Easter Sunday, has been called off.
But Aj Zarate, who was with Ayson in the Manila-based hiking club Backpackers United, said this did not mean they were giving hope of finding their fellow mountaineer.
Ayson, a computer mainframe designer from Quezon City, went missing during a solo hike on Mt. Maculot on March 31.
“(Ayson’s) father (Samuel Ayson) was the one who decided to call off the search. We have virtually covered the whole area and it would be inefficient if [we] keep on going back to the same places already covered by the search,” Zarate said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Zarate said the search team composed of police and Army personnel, village watchmen and volunteer mountaineers, pulled out of Cuenca late Sunday, although a group of Cuenca-based mountaineers remained n the vicinity.
But the local mountaineers, she said, returned to the “Rockies” on Monday and searched again both the eastern and western flanks of Maculot’s steep, rocky slopes, but found no traces of Ayson.
“The father also asked us to give the mountain a rest and time to recuperate. If you’ve gone there this past week, maawa ka rin naman sa bundok at sa trail (you will pity the mountain and the trail),” said Zarate as there were more than 100 people all at once, who camped and stayed up on the mountain.
Senior Supt. Rosauro Acio, Batangas police director, earlier said the search efforts had shifted from rescue operations to retrieval operations.
Ayson’s family continues to ask for prayers for their missing son, Zarate said.
Ayson was last seen on Easter Sunday, before he left a group of mountaineers at the Batangas City port and traveled alone to Cuenca.
Before his ascent to Mt. Maculot, Ayson left his backpack at a mountaineers’ store at the foot of the mountain and took only a smaller bag with his camera for his day-hike.
A post on the blog site Pinoy Mountaineer—which Zarate said serves as a guide to Filipino mountaineers—said the influx of hikers during the Holy Week had left the trail of Mt. Maculot “very slippery, due to the accumulation of sand and dust in the steep portions.”
The blog site also recalled a 2003 incident similar to that of Ayson’s when hiker Elyovic Gutierrez from Cavite disappeared without a trace on Mt. Madjaas on Panay Island.
“In the case of Victor (Ayson), the response of the mountaineering community has been to support the rescue operations, as it has done in the past incidents,” added the blog site.
A few issues were raised, however. For instance, some have suggested that “solo climbing should be avoided as a lesson that ought to be learned, while others have argued against a generalization,” said the site posted on April 8.