Recent earthquake has displaced Aeta communities

The organizers of the 2019 Lahar Challenge (originally scheduled for May 4 to 5) have announced their decision to postpone the event to a later date, which has yet to be determined. Sponsors and other stakeholders of the event have agreed with this development. Meanwhile, team captains and participants will be updated via email with further news and details.

The 2019 Lahar Challenge is postponed due to earthquake, displaced Aetas image

The Lahar Challenge helmsmen have released the following public statement: “Because of continuing seismic activities and aftershocks, local authorities, including the Aeta community leaders and the Angeles Tourism Office, are currently implementing measures to ensure the safety and protect the livelihood of the residents and inhabitants of the mountain barangay. We are also conducting inspections [at] the Lahar Challenge trail and are coordinating with local authorities and the Aeta communities to ensure the safety of our participants.”

The 2019 Lahar Challenge is postponed due to earthquake, displaced Aetas image

Parts of the competition route are currently impassable. Tour operators and travelers were stranded in the lahar fields and river canyons during the earthquake — surviving the rockslides and apocalyptic clouds of dust. They successfully escaped the area in the evening of April 22. As of April 28, ravines were still caving in and segments of cliff faces were collapsing. More Aetas are still evacuating their mountain villages, and some 4x4s remain stranded in the area with no way to get out.

The province of Pampanga, which was set to host the 2019 Lahar Challenge, was hit the hardest by the 6.1-magnitude earthquake originating from nearby Castillejos, Zambales. As of April 29, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has reported a total of 924 aftershocks (ranging from 1.4 to 4.5 magnitude), at least 243 injuries, 18 casualties, and three missing persons. 1,746 houses have been damaged in Bataan, Pampanga, and Zambales (Region III). 334 buildings sustained damages in Regions I, III, NCR, and Calabarzon.

The indigenous Aeta communities around Porac, Pampanga evacuated their villages during the earthquake. Hundreds of Aetas have been displaced to stay in makeshift tents and shelters after the destruction of their homes. Following the earthquake, many Aetas currently suffer from deteriorating health, poor living situations, lack of essential supplies, and psychological trauma. On May 4, the event’s original starting date, the core organizing team of the Lahar Challenge will travel to Pampanga to donate supplies and provide much-needed aid.

The 2019 Lahar Challenge is postponed due to earthquake, displaced Aetas image

Read the full letter to the event’s partners and participants below…

“Dear Partners,

First of all, we would like to extend our sincerest thanks to your teams for joining and supporting the 2019 Lahar Challenge.

In light of the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Pampanga and other areas in the country, we have been in constant communication and consultations with the Aeta community leaders and different organizations to determine the current situation of the Aeta tribes, as well as the surrounding environment and situation within the lahar area.

After much consideration and discussions, we have decided to postpone this year’s challenge (originally slated for May 3 to 5, 2019) to a later date. Many of the tribal communities and their means of livelihood were affected by the earthquake and continuing seismic tremors. Some areas have also been rendered impassable. Your safety and security as well as those of the tribal communities in the area will always be our utmost priority.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will decide on an alternate date for the 2019 Lahar Challenge upon consultation and total clearance from the following agencies:

Angeles City Government
Angeles Tourism Office
Golden Trails Travel Adventures
Aeta Community Leaders and Elders

Rest assured that we will keep you in the loop regarding any updates in the following weeks. If you have already paid the fees and wish to be reimbursed, kindly let us know through this e-mail. We will facilitate reimbursement ASAP.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We hope for your understanding and your continued support."