Keeping Cebu’s mountains clean and green

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo June 17,2019 - 11:24 AM

Volunteers of the National Mountain Cleanup Day 2019 in Chalet Hills, Barangay Busay, Cebu City on Sunday, June 16. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Rafael Babula

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The rain poured hard on Cebu City at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, as 21 individuals hurriedly sought shelter inside a jeepney headed for the mountain village of Busay.

The destination was Chalet Hills, a campsite located nine kilometers from JY Square in Barangay Lahug and only a few meters away from the tourist magnet, Temple of Leah, for a special overnight camping trip.

It was special because the group was a combination of seasoned mountain climbers, outdoor enthusiasts and mothers with children, who volunteered to be part of the National Mountain Cleanup Day 2019.

“This is the first of two cleanup activities that we are organizing as part of our advocacy to keep Cebu’s mountains clean and green. We are blessed to have destinations here in Cebu to enjoy with nature. We don’t want to contribute to destroying them because we believe that it is our job to be stewards of this wonderful creation,” said Mercury “MC” Montebon, the main man behind MC Outdoors.

MC Outdoors is a non-profit initiative that provides outdoor literacy for individuals and groups who see the need to learn outdoor ethics and experience the outdoors.

MC is also the consultant of a local mountaineering group, Laktud, which stands for “Laag, Kat-kat, Tudlo” (roam, climb, point).

MC said both organizations aim to spread the awareness of taking care of the environment by adhering to the seven principles of Leave No Trace (LNT), which provides for an “easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.”

MC said this is the sixth National Mountain Cleanup Day.

MC Outdoors is organizing two legs in Cebu: one in Chalet Hills last June 15 to 16 and another one in Mount Kan-irag or Sirao Peak on June 29 to 30.

Since he started scaling Cebu’s mountains in 2002, MC said most of the trash that are left in the campsites, rivers, waterfalls or even on and under the trees are wastes from food packaging.

Close to two decades of living an outdoor life has made MC realize that to influence others to take care of the environment, a mountaineer needs to get out of his shell and teach others.

He said it is important for outdoor experts and seasoned mountaineers to share their knowledge and skills to newbies or those who view hiking or trekking as a hobby.

“We cannot be snobs. We need to teach the newbies because who knows, they might really love the outdoors and continue on with trekking, hiking or mountaineering on a more serious level. It’s best that we teach them from the very beginning how to do it properly,” says MC.

This is the view of Cebu City from Chalet Hills in Barangay Busay, Cebu City. CDND PHOTO / Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo

Eagle scout 

Raised by a father who is a scout and mountaineer, MC learned early on that taking care of the environment is more than just enjoying the view from the top; it also means taking responsibility that human actions have severe impact on nature.

He learned this as a young child raised by a father, who is a mountaineer.

The family is originally from Barangay Talamban, Cebu City.

His father, Edmond, was assigned in Biliran, Leyte so the young MC spent his elementary and high school years trained in scout activities.

“I became an Eagle Scout in Biliran. I was inspired by the examples of my Dad, who was a mountaineer from the 1960s to the late 90s,” says MC, now 35 years old.

Events organized by MC Outdoors are often advocacy-based and do not charge hefty registration fees.

He sells shirts and other camping essentials to fund projects such as building deep wells and giving away school supplies to children in mountainous areas.

In previous articles, the National Mountain Cleanup Day is said to have been inspired by medical anthropologist, Gideon Lasco, who put out the idea of a cleanup day on his blog, Pinoy Mountaineer.


Common during climbs is the socials night where campers or mountaineers swap stories over drinks.

On the night of June 15, MC, along with seasoned mountaineer Rafael Babula, shared to volunteers essential tips in mountaineering including the seven LNT principles.

Volunteers gather two sacks of garbage during the cleanup drive in Chalet Hills, Busay, Cebu City on Sunday, June 16. CDND PHOTO / Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo

“It’s so easy to post pictures on social media that you climbed and enjoyed the outdoors. But the question is… are you a responsible hiker or climber? Or you are just doing it for the sake of publicity?” MC says.

Chalet Hills is considered as the easiest campsite to reach which only requires a 10- to 15-minute hike from the foot of the mountain in Sitio Babag, Barangay Busay.

Camping in Chalet Hills does not require any registration fee or environmental fee.

It is perhaps this reason that some individuals take it for granted.

During the cleanup day on June 16, volunteers gathered two sacks of garbage, mostly composed of plastics, which were disposed under the trees. Many of the trash were just lying around the vicinity of the campsite.

“We hope that with activities like this we can encourage and inspire more people to take care of our mountains,” says MC.

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