January 8, 15

JP Alipio


Share, this is a word I have to constantly remind myself  as I am bred from a generation of outdoors people who puts a premium on the untouched the sacred spaces that only you and a select group of friends know of. For years this has been my practice, only a select few would know the places we would go to and we selfishly kept beautiful hidden spots to ourselves, often this group was small –sometimes it was just myself and a friend. We would post images of our trips and when someone would ask where we went there would be no answer forthcoming, or a vague ‘somewhere out there’.


While this practice has kept many of these places a secret only known to myself and close friends, I have found over the years that we have lost many of these precious gems as well, not so much from the onslaught of tourism but in fact from not being used as an outdoor recreational area. Many trails have wound up becoming roads, secret camping spots farmed over and forests destroyed. And one of the reasons I blame for this is my not sharing the information of where these beautiful places were so that their value as a wild space untouched was not fully realized, rather they were valued for the resources that were above and below ground often to the detriment of it’s wildness.


Ten years ago now. Myself and a team of 4 other people traversed trails from Benguet all the way to Ilocos sur during the Cordillera Traverse from April to May 2005. It took us 38 days to walk through over 500 kilometers of trails. 10 years later much of these trails have become roads, dirt roads, and some even paved roads. 10 years later around 50% of this 500 kilometers of trails are now roads and this corresponds as well to the loss of habitats and ecosystems associated with creating the road infrastructure, those once forested areas in the 250kilometers of trails are now vegetable gardens or denuded mountains as the easier access has accelerated the destruction, why because in 2005 I selfishly kept this trail data to myself, given of course at the time facebook and social media was not as prevalent as it is now I realize 10 years on that I could have given a different value for these trails if only I had shared the information with people who could have used them, followed in our footsteps and created an economy around the trails rather than create the need for roads into the mountains.


The value of wild spaces in the Philippines in particular and likely in many places with similar developing circumstances lies in it’s use and it’s users. For many of our wild spaces use was limited to traditional resource based uses such as agriculture, mining, logging, but there is value in the wild space that lies with simply keeping it untouched, and people who walk through these wild spaces and provide economic opportunities to the people living within them create a value out of something that is unvalued –a landscape untouched, pristine, nature that is wild and free.


Ten years ago, after the Cordillera Traverse we made plans, created great pages and pages of plans, economic, environmental, cultural, etc… that would create the longest trail system in the Cordillera region and shopped it around presenting it in forums in the Philippines and abroad but we forgot one crucial element –we were not presenting it to the right people. We were presenting it to academics and politicians hoping it would gain traction before presenting it to the outdoor community. Looking back all we had to do back then was to have shared the GPS data with every mountaineer we knew so that they could follow our footsteps and create a movement that walked continuously on those 500 kilometers of trails. That alone could have started the demand to protect them and their surrounding areas, the trails we walked on were built during the Spanish period and some even older, they represent the connections that span not only villages but also generations and some of the oldest continuously used links between human habitation in the Philippines.


This year represents the 10th year since we did the Cordillera Traverse and while many of the trails we passed through back then have become roads there is still a majority of trails that are still footpaths for humans. In commemoration of the tenth year of the traverse I will be creating detailed day by day itineraries with GPS data people can use to follow our footsteps back then, this will also compliment the Cordillera Great Traverse which will pass through 70-80% of the Cordillera Traverse route in 2005. I won’t make the mistake again of not sharing and creating value for wild spaces by bringing people into it. And today in the age of social media that should be just a click away.




The Cordillera Conservation Trust through it’s Forest Economies program will also be creating landscape routes that do not go to peaks but create value for mountain landscapes in between mountain villages so that the walk will go from village to village and the value is not simply the summit but the entire ecosystem you will be walking through. The first of these landscape walks will be the route of the Cordillera Mountain Marathon around Mt. Pulag, we will also be creating landscape routes in Mt. Ugo in Kayapa and Itogon and in the mountains of Kibungan and Bakun this 2015. These routes will be shared with everyone.