|View of Taal Lake at the approach towards the Rockies of Mt. Maculot|
Dear Sirs and Madams,
MANY OF YOU grew up in the shadow of Mt. Maculot and I do not have any reason to doubt your best intentions; your love for the mountain. This beautiful landmark at the heart of Batangas deserves its place in your hearts, and ours.
A few months ago, you began implementing a policy to require all mountaineers to get guides. Doubtless, you passed this out of concern for the safety of mountaineers. Still fresh in our memories is the tragic death of one of our fellow mountaineers, Victor Ayson, and I am sure you were mindful of this tragedy when you enacted this legislation.
Your concerns for mountaineers’ safety are warranted. However, your response to these concerns may not be best solution.
First, Mt. Maculot’s trails are easy to follow, even for beginners. There are only one or two junctions where hikers might be misled, but this is easily solved by putting up some arrows and direction signs. Getting a guide just to lead the way in these rare instances doesn’t make sense. Clearly, preventing hikers from is not a valid reason to get a guide.
Second, only the Rockies actually present with the real threat of people getting serious injuries like falling, but this can be remedied by other ways. For instance, as in mountains like Mt. Kinabalu, ropes and reminders can be installed in the Rockies to prevent falls. Moreover, proper training and preparation will be a hiker’s best way to prevent an accident, and this is something that a guide cannot match.
Finally, while reacting to a hiker’s death is understandable, please balance that one accident with the thousands of climbs that end up safe and successful, without injury or harm. Consider that Mt. Maculot has been climbed by people for decades without guides, and this has not led to misfortune. Victor Ayson’s case has some peculiarities that do not apply to everyone. For one, he was hiking alone.
As for the economics, while it is true that mountaineers will give income to some locals, this will also discourage many of the regular visitors from climbing Maculot. Hikers come from all walks of life, and many of us save up hard-earned money just to climb mountains. For many, especially students, every peso counts. Will you prevent them from enjoying the outdoors just because they cannot afford a guide? And what of a couple of hikers who go to Maculot every weekend for their workout? Will you require them to pay 500 even if they have climbed Maculot countless times?
No mountain is 100% safe but hikers are aware of the risk and we must not attempt to kill the risk at the expense of being impractical in the vast majority of situations. As mountaineers, it is our responsibility to be trained and prepared for various situations, but we are aware that sometimes, accidents do happen, even among the best trained and best prepared among us. Needless to say, even the presence of guides will not ensure that the mountains will be 100% safe. But this is fine. As in many things in life, there are always risks and as long as we have done our best to minimize it, we have to live with it.
To be sure, guides should be made available to those who need or want them. As a compromise, it is reasonable to propose that first-timers should be required to get guides, but those who can demonstrate, through pictures or through their names in your logbooks, that they have already climbed the mountain should be given the choice of not getting guides. In the wake of Victor Ayson’s death, it will even be acceptable for hikers climbing alone to be required to get a guide. Moreover, it is also very understandable to close the mountain during and immediately after a typhoon. But an all-encompassing requirement will be an additional burden that many of us will find hard to bear. What is at stake here is not just the burden of an additional expense, but the freedom of choice, the ability to enjoy the mountain without unnecessary restrictions.
In conclusion, there are many ways for mountaineers and locals to both benefit from hiking activities, but one should not benefit at the expense of the other. The mountain belongs to everyone, and we should work together for its good, for the safety of those wishing to enjoy it, and for the benefit of those who live on its slopes and foothills. By taking into consideration one another’s concerns and viewpoints and by seeking consensus instead of acting unilaterally, we can achieve harmony for the good of everyone concerned.
In behalf of the mountaineers who share the same sentiments, I respectfully appeal to your good offices to stop requiring guides in Mt. Maculot.