Trail runners from all over the globe are lacing up for this year’s Cordillera Mountain Ultra Marathon 2022 (CMU 2022) at one of the most scenic mountains in southern Benguet.
More than 100 runners are expected to see action in the premiere 50 kilometer ultra marathon and who will be trekking to the peak of the 7,218 feet Mount Ugo in barangay Tinongdan in Itogon, Benguet on December 3 and 4 during the event’s fifth staging.
The runners will get to enjoy the vista the mountain offers, like the Agno River Valley and West Philippine Sea as well as Mount Marikit, also in said town which is much lower at 6,210 feet.
But aside from the main routes to the 2200m ascent and descent this year, a Philippines first is introduced by the Race Director and founder of the Cordillera Conservation Trust (CTT), JP Alipio.
“This year were introducing what we call the Canicross, it’s a human with a dog, because I own dogs and I run with my dogs and we’d like to develop that as a sport here in the Philippines” shares Alipio.
He added: “Now it’s more like a showcase race, but eventually it would be a separate thing…dogs and humans running together”
The Canicross is a popular stand-alone sport originating in Europe wherein the runner is attached to his/her dog via waist belt and finish a 10 kilometer run together. This fun addition to the race saga will transpire a day before the main race. Other events include a 1000-meter vertical run and kiddie run.
In addition to serving as a qualifying race for the annual UTMB Ultra Marathon in Europe and being regarded as an International Trail Running Association (ITRA) point race, this arduous series is also given a Super Trail status by the Asia Trail Masters series which qualifies interested finishers to join the international championships this year to be held at the Philippine rooftop, Mt. Apo.
More than a race
The pine ridges of Cordillera have emerged as one of the top travel destinations for visitors seeking to attune themselves with nature every year. With over 264,000 arrivals recorded from January to June 2022, innovative approaches are needed to develop without sacrificing environmental sustainability and raise economic development in these wild spaces.
“If you look at the Cordillera were blessed with a lot of beautiful wild spaces but then the value is normally seen for timber, for land, for mining, there’s no intrinsic value in the wild space just being left alone…a lot of people don’t see value in that” expressed Alipio.
The Benguet native has since then advocated to safeguard the wild space economy and trail blazed sustainable initiatives such as trail runs like the Cordillera Mountain Ultra which opens opportunities to the locales.
“We’ve been training since 2015 different communities on how to access that value. We train them in home stays…We develop and basically train them on how to market their product, we train them on how to do accounting” said Alipio “And when we do the events, they automatically get customers…and the value chain is long…so often times a lot of tourist areas just think its guides but the main value in tourism is accommodation and food, because those things anybody can do”
Homestaying has since ensued as an imprint of Alipio’s CMU races. As it turns out, homestays in the Municipality of Itogon has significantly increased in the recent years not to mention budget travel on the rise and curiosity in cultural tourism continuously expanding. With this environmentalist and his organization, alongside combined efforts with the University of Baguio. Some households’ incomes have increased by as much as 500% thanks to the groups.
The sudden boost of these households’ livelihood and gains bore fruitful growth that will surely sustain them in the coming years.
“Malaking tulong yung Homestay, yung collection po ay improvements din sa bahay, nung isang taon meron din kami na collect na 80,000,” expressed Desiree Montes, a homestay owner in Barangay Dalupirip.
“This is supposed to be a family resort…pero mas nakilala siya dahil sa CMU noong 2015, simula nun yung mga naki homestay sa amin, they come here as guests kahit hindi na CMU” shared Pahak Resort and Homestay owner, Cynthia Simon.
“Pwede na kaming magtinda doon para maipakita namen products namen sa turista…kami mismo maglalapit sa kanila” said Franzeen Cariño, homestay owner who was able to put up their own sari sari store in Dalupirip.
Races such as Alipio’s Cordillera Mountain Ultra greatly benefit rural villages by creating jobs and opening up opportunities without jeopardizing the environment and keeping these wild spaces – wild.
Bring your “A” game now and join the race saga on their Facebook page @Cordillera Conservation Trust and website at https://bit.ly/CMU2022REG
Mount Ugo is home to the indigenous people called Iwak who have their small community at the foot of the mountain and some of the younger community members act as guides to the mountain.