With an abundance of natural spaces, the Philippines has become one of the world’s premier destinations for visitors looking to surround themselves with nature. With a record 7.1 million foreign visitors arriving to the country in 2018, the tourism industry faces an increasing need to pursue long-term environmental sustainability without sacrificing economic growth.
For a developing country, however, it’s a balance that proves difficult to strike. This is especially evident in mountain regions like the Cordilleras, where economic activities have often disrupted ecosystems and displaced local communities.
In response, the Cordillera Conservation Trust (CCT) looks for ways to address these issues, using outdoor adventure and tourism as the primary means to encourage environmental conservation, the growth of local communities, and economic development.
In March 2020, CCT is set to host its 5th Cordillera Mountain Ultra, a series of outdoor races through the lush pine forests of Mt. Ugo in Itogon, Benguet. With this year’s theme of “Outdoors for All,” it aims to bring together participants of all backgrounds, ages, and skill levels from around the world to come and experience the beauty of the region’s wild spaces firsthand.
The two-day event will feature six trails of varied lengths and difficulties, including the Canicross Run: a 10km trail for runners and their dogs. The first of its kind in the Philippines, the trail’s creation was inspired by CCT’s own adventure dog, Pacha.
Headlining the races is the 50km Ultra Marathon, which offers runners a superb view of the Agno River Valley as they follow the trail of Mt. Ugo’s sloping ridgelines. Awarded SuperTrail status by the Asia Trail Masters Series, the grueling race starts and ends in the town of Dalupirip, and tops out at 2150 meters. It is considered an International Trail Running Association (ITRA) point race, as well as a qualifying race for the annual UTMB Ultra Marathon in Europe.
The Cordillera Mountain Ultra is just one of CCT’s annual mountain biking and running events, which aim to promote the conservation of wild spaces through outdoor adventure. The races also help communities in the remote villages by providing jobs and opportunities to generate tourism-based income.
NOTE: Due to travel restrictions brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cordillera Mountain Ultra 2020 has been cancelled.
Photos by Miguel Nacianceno were originally published in GRID Issue No. 12, in the story “Keep It Wild: GRID Expedition I.”