Mount Makiling trail reopens for Lenten hikers
The Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME) has reopened the 8.7-kilometer Maria Makiling trail for trekkers and campers in time for the Lenten season, three months since it was closed after two students died while on a hike.
The hiking trail that starts from the College of Forestry campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) was closed in December following the death of UPLB students Mark Lorenz Valdez and Kevin Lagadon, who went hiking in Mt. Makiling on Dec. 2.
The two, both 18, reportedly drowned in Molawin Creek, which university officials said was a restricted area.
Roberto Cereno of the MCME said the closure of the trail was set prior to the accident to give way to the rehabilitation of the trail and the camping site in preparation for Holy Week.
The rehabilitation by private power firm Aboitiz Power
Corp. ended on March 1.
Cereno said around 20,000 hike on Makiling annually “but around 8,000 arrive from Holy Wednesday to Black Saturday.”
Another trail, the Sipit trail, was opened last year for hikers from the other side of the mountain. The 5-km Sipit trail begins in Barangay San Miguel in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and is managed by the municipal government of Sto. Tomas.
“[The Sipit trail] is shorter but steeper [than the Makiling trail],” Cereno said.
The MCME, which is administered by the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources, has launched in 2002 the “Make It Makiling,” a visitor management scheme particularly for the Holy Week.
It enforces camping and hiking rules, such as limiting camping only at the Tayabak camp site; prohibiting liquor, drugs and firearms; the “garbage in, garbage out” rule; and restricting visitors’ access to the “wilderness zone,” or the critical and accident-prone areas inside the forest.
Hikers are required to log in at the trail’s registration area but “this year, we will require them to leave at least one valid ID,” Cereno said.
He said aside from the UPLB forest guards, around 200 volunteers from the local police and rescue teams would be roving the forest during Holy Week.
With Mt. Banahaw in Quezon still closed, Cereno said pilgrims are welcome to Mt. Makiling but discouraged religious practices, such as leaving behind religious images and lighted candles inside the forest.
“Candles may start forest fires,” he said. “Makiling is not a place for worship. If they wish [to pray], they should go to churches instead,” he said. Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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