James DV. Alvarez, an MS Wildlife Studies graduate of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) and University Extension Associate I of the UPLB Museum of Natural History, tragically passed away last 8 December 2018, during a climb of Mt. Apo via Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

Along with several friends on a trip after conducting capacity-building activities for University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan, they started their climb of Mt. Apo on 5 December 2018.

Composed of four people from UPLB including James, a companion from USM, and three others (guide, porter and cook/porter), the group started their final ascent at 2:15 AM of 7 December and arrived at the peak at 6:00 AM. After breakfast and staying until 9:00 AM, James and a companion went ahead back to Venado camp (which is 2-4 hours walk) and arrived around 1:00 PM. The remainder of the group joined them at camp by 2:00 PM.

At the Venado camp (2287 masl), James fell gravely ill during the night at around 11:00 PM, vomiting until the next day. His group alerted authorities and decamped Venado camp, descended at around 10:00 AM of 8 December amidst heavy rain, wet and slippery terrain and was able to arrive at Koong camp (1900 masl) by 6:00 PM with porters carrying James.

James and the others rested in Koong while waiting for rescuers because it was raining very hard and already dark. Koong is 5 hours away by normal walk to the lower elevation.

At around 9:30 PM of 8 December, James had a seizure and never regained consciousness despite efforts to revive him. Rescue teams were not able to reach the group in time, arriving at around 11:00 PM. The group, with the rescuers, made their descent from Koong camp around midnight of 9 December and reached the jump-off site's accessible road (800-900 masl) at around 5:00 AM.

With the assistance of many kind-hearted people, the group was able to go back to Kidapawan and meet with James' relatives for his preparations.

Today, 11 December, James' body will be flown to Manila via Davao City Airport. James will be brought to his hometown of Lemery, Batangas where his family awaits.

Critical assistance is currently being given by University of Southern Mindanao, LGU-Kidapawan City, LGU-Davao City, UP Mindanao, UPLB Alumni Association members based in Davao and Kidapawan, and friends and colleagues in the biodiversity conservation sector as well.

Constant communication, coordination, guidance, financial and emotional support is being given by the curators and staff of the UPLB Museum of Natural History, and the Office of the Chancellor through the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension, both to James' friends and family members in this time of great grief.


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