Subscribe Us

Ilonggo Network

Edwin Gatia : The Legend

Amidst all the uncertainties we are facing these days due to this global pandemic of Covid–19, I am further saddened with the recent passing of Edwin Gatia, former tourism officer of the Department of Tourism in Negros Occidental.

Edwin died of stroke on March 11.

For the mountaineering community in the country, he was a legend, as he ascended almost all major trekking destinations in the country. He was one of the pioneering officers of the Philippine Mountaineering Society and the Negros Mountaineering Club.

Edwin, or Edgat to his closed friends, was not only passionate in trekking the heights of the different mountains here and abroad, but he was making efforts in calling for the uncompromising protection of forest ecosystems. Every mountaineering group in the Philippines, I am sure, has good recollections about Edwin, since he was also a trainer and mentor on mountaineering, aside from being cheerful, full of life, friendly, and witty, too.

His contribution to the tourism industry in Negros Occidental could not be discounted. During his stint as a tourism officer, the resources provided for his office was so meager, forcing him to use his personal car while doing official transactions. He was also one of the organizing members of the environment activist Green Alert Negros.

One of my fond memories with Edwin was when I was the Protected Area Superintendent of the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, from 1995 to 2002. The MKNP seemed to be the “playground” of Edwin, as he scaled the crater of the Kanla-on Volcano and traverse numerous trails for unaccounted times. As such, he was knowledgeable on various features of the area, and I always sought his advises on various concerns.

When the Protected Area Management Board of the MKNP imposed the closure of the park in 1996, after the phreatic explosion that took the lives of three trekkers and wounded several others, Edwin stood with us in spite of vehement reactions from some local and national mountaineers. Twenty trekkers were at the summit when all of the sudden, and without indication, the volcano exploded. The incident was the reason why the PAMB ordered the closure of the park for trekking while mountaineering guidelines have still to be drafted and implemented.

Edwin played a crucial role in drafting the MKNP mountaineering guidelines. Along with the late Bob Aizpuro, one of the early members of the MKNP PAMB, and former city planning and development coordinator of La Carlota, we spent several sleepless nights in crafting the first mountaineering guidelines of the park, which subsequently became a reference of other protected areas in the country in drafting their own guidelines.

While the guidelines underwent improvement through the years, most of the inputs provided by Edwin are still there in the current mountaineering policy of the MKNP.

In addition, Edwin provided us technical inputs in the development of the ecotourism plan of Guintuban in La Carlota and the Rafael Salas Nature Park in Bago City. These two adjacent sites were identified as the ecotourism zone of the MKNP and one of the major jump-off stations leading to the summit. The ecotourism plan resulted in the first ever co-management agreement between the provincial government of Negros Occidental, the cities of Bago and La Carlota, and the PAMB.

He further trained the first batches of MKNP porters and guides, sharing his excellent knowledge and skills in mountaineering techniques, safety, and guiding of visitors.

Edwin and I were among the members of the Technical Working Group for the proposed creation of the Negros Island Region way back in the early 90s. As we officially worked together in numerous instances, the bond of friendship remains between us, and he fondly called me Toto Errol. It was the reason I entrusted to him all the preparation for my required travel documents when I went to Switzerland and United Kingdom in 1998, and it went well without hassles.

When I left MKNP in 2002, we did not hear from each other until in 2008 when I joined Facebook. He was among the first group of FB friends whom I reconnected after sometime. At that time, Edwin already migrated to the US while I was residing in Metro Manila. From then on, our exchanges of messages became constant and one of which was when he gladly told me that his book on MKNP is up for publication.

Edwin was an author, an astronomer, and a world traveler. In one of his homecomings, he gave me a copy of his book with personal dedication.

A week before he died, he sent a message via Messenger inviting me to join him in a mountaineering event on March 28 in Manila. I never thought it was our last communication. Sad as it may that Edwin is no longer physically with us, I know many of us will always cherish the memories and legacies he left. My condolences to his loved ones.

So long and rest well, my dearest friend, Edwin, the legend.

-Errol A. Gatumbato

This article first appeared on the Visayan Daily Star on March 16, 2020 under the column, Conservation Matters by
Errol A. Gatumbato.

Post a Comment


  1. Summer 2016 was the last time I saw Nong Edwin here in Manila, although we have been talking on Facebook since before that. It was his vacation time. He stayed in Manila overnight before heading for Bacolod. My late brother Steve was his officemate at the DOT in the 70s and a fellow Canlaon mounteneer, so I already knew Nong Edwin from before. He gave me all his Star Wars spaceship collection, whatever he could lug back home. Over dinner we had a nice time reminiscing about the 70s. Glad we met again Nong Edwin, now you and Nong Steve must be having a grand old time up there. Please hug him for me.

  2. Rest in Peace Edwin, a fulfilled life you had. Thank you for all contribution to our Mountaineering community and preservation of nature.