Virac mountain climber dies after falling ill on way up Mt. Pacogon

A mountaineer’s third climb up the highest peak in San Miguel town turned into a tragedy when he fell ill at the campsite and had to be carried down by his companions.

Health personnel at the Bato Maternity and Children’s Hospital failed to revive Kevin Tablizo, 30, a resident of Calatagan Proper, Virac, and founding member of the Leaflife mountaineering group.

According to the group’s leader, Junjun Candelaria, they were on their usual climbing activity conducted before the holding of the Abaca Festival, with the climb up Mt. Pacogon, one of the highest mountains of Catanduanes at 600 meters above sea level.

The peak is the highest in the mountain range stretching across San Miguel to Viga.

“As a member for nearly 15 years, Kevin was aware of the preparations for the climb, particularly body conditioning, the do’s and don’ts as well as the prevailing weather,” he disclosed.

We did not expect it to happen as Tablizo had been part of previous expeditions, he said, adding that Tablizo’s brother and brother-in-law also joined the climb.

He was designated as the team’s sweeper and thus was expected to reach the campsite at an elevation of 520 meters.

Candelaria said they were already at the campsite at about 1 PM of May 21, 2022 when they were surprised to see Tablizo coming in, having overtaken the other climbers.

Tablizo told them he was not feeling well, asked for water and tried to lie down but was told to stay seated.

Two climbers who are Red Cross volunteers found out that his blood pressure was elevated and his oxygen level low.

Over the next 30 minutes, Tablizo felt drowsy and weak while resting beneath a tree, with his companions trying to keep him conscious.

Candelaria descended to seek help and managed to have the MDRRMO contacted for an ambulance to extract Tablizo on level ground.

The others, including the Red Cross volunteers and a nurse, placed the stricken climber on a hammock, which was strung on a bamboo pole, and then slowly carried him down the slopes of Pacogon.

During their way down, one team member noticed that Tablizo was unstable and still had low oxygen level.

Halfway into the descent, he had to be revived by one of the Red Cross volunteers.

Upon reaching ground level, they had to cross the river on board a banca before loading him on the waiting ambulance.

At BMCH where they arrived sometime after 8 PM, emergency room personnel were not able to revive the unconscious Tablizo.

Candelaria claimed that before the climb, the victim was having second thoughts about joining the activity.

It is also alleged that Tablizo suffered from asthma.

PAGASA Virac officer-in-charge Juan Pantino Jr. told the Tribune that the heat index that Saturday was 45 degrees Centigrade.

In its website, the weather agency classifies heat index between 41C to 54C as “dangerous” as it could lead to heat cramps and heat exhaustion are likely. Heat stroke is probable with continued activity, it warns.

The DOH defines heatstroke as a medical emergency wherein the body temperature reaches very high levels, 40 degrees Celsius and up, due to constant heat exposure.

It is usually in combination with dehydration which can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. It may also lead to severe complications and even death if untreated.

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