SAN PEDRO, Laguna, Philippines — The police on Sunday confirmed that the body found in Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas, was that of Victor Joel Ayson, the mountaineer who went missing during a solo hike on Easter Sunday.
“He was identified through the clothes. It looked like (Ayson) accidentally fell off the cliff in the Rockies,” the Batangas police director, Senior Superintendent Rosauro Acio said, quoting initial reports from Cuenca police of the body’s location.
But in a post by Pinoy Mountaineer, a website that provides a guide for Filipino mountaineers, it said the body was found in a portion of Taal Lake below the “Rockies.”
“Rockies” is a steep rock formation inclined by 70 to 80 degrees but draws the thrill-seekers among Mt. Maculot trekkers.
Mt. Maculot, shaped like an igloo, is a popular daytrip site for mountaineers, with three destinations – the “Rockies,” which is 706 meters in height, the summit (930 m) and the Grotto (510m) – with most climbers heading to the “Rockies,”described as “the paragon of an easy hike,” according to information posted on the Philippine mountaineers website, pinoymountaineers.com.
The same website explained why the “Rockies” has been attracting a lot of climbing enthusiasts:
“It is understandable, though, that the ‘Rockies’ is Maculot’s most powerful draw. This rocky formation stands beside Taal Lake, creating a scenic view, encompassing the whole of Taal Lake including the world-famous Taal volcano; as well the plains of Batangas. From a distance looms, on opposite sides, Mt. Makiling and the Tagaytay Highlands… The climbing time is variable; experienced climbers can reach the Rockies in less than an hour, but on a more relaxed pace, one could take up to two or three hours. Being a very popular trail, some entrepreneurial locals would sell drinks, like buko juice, at the rest stops along the trail, which is somewhat steep.”
Acio said authorities were still on their way to retrieve the body on Sunday morning.
Superintendent Renato Mercado, Batangas police information officer, said on Saturday that some mountaineers hiking in Mount Maculot smelled the foul odor from the area and spotted the body of a man, who turned out to be Ayson, some 300 meters down a ravine shortly before noon, also on Saturday.
A team from 740th Command Group of the Philippine Air Force, the Cuenca police and some mountaineers has set out for the area to retrieve the body, he said.
He said retrieving Ayson’s remains would require expert climbers as the area was very difficult to reach, Mercado said
Ayson, a computer mainframe designer from Quezon City, went missing on March 31 after he left a group of mountaineers at the Batangas City port and travelled alone to Cuenca town for a solo day-hike in Mt. Maculot.
His family began looking for him after he failed to come home by noon on that day.
In an earlier text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Ayson’s girlfriend Angelyn Samentar said she had strong feelings Ayson would be home on or before his birthday.
It was Ayson’s 27th birthday when his body was found.
“It will always be debatable whether solo hiking should be done by mountaineers [and] we will always have our own opinions that we must learn to deliver at the proper place and time, respecting the feelings of others at all times.”
“[But] whether by yourself or with a group, hiking will always have risks and we have to do our best to always be prepared,” read a part of the eulogy that Pinoy Mountaineer offered for Ayson on its website, Saturday.
It also said Ayson’s death should not discourage mountain climbing and quoted Ayson, who once captioned his photos taken in the mountains with: “never give up, the heavens will provide.” With a report from Marrah Erika Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon