DAVAO CITY -- Giant rocks fell from Mt. Apo's crater creating explosive sounds, a group of mountaineers said, as they recalled surviving a powerful earthquake on top of the Philippines' highest summit.
The sound from the falling rocks seemed like a subwoofer was blaring, said Armiyah Sambutuan, who climbed Mt. Apo with her husband, Abduhalil and 6 others.
The group started their climb at 1:30 a.m. Thursday and reached the peak after 5 hours. After breakfast and a photo session, the earthquake struck at around 9 a.m.
"There were sounds of explosion while the ground was shaking," Armiyah told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.
The Sambutan couple tried to stay calm as their fellow mountaineers cried in fear.
"Deep inside takot din kami. Pero kailangan namin ang presence of mind kasi kung magpanic kami baka di kami makapag-isip," she said.
(Deep inside we were afraid. But we needed presence of mind. Because if we panicked, we might not be able to think properly.)
It was the third strong earthquake to hit the same area in Mindanao in 2 weeks, killing at least 23 people and destroying buildings and houses.
Photos and video taken by Armiyah and posted on Abduhalil's Facebook page, showed parts of Mt. Apo that collapsed. Smoke billowed from the debris.
Abduhalil described the tremor's sound moved "like a wave." Armiyah said the group was lucky to have stayed at the peak longer.
"If we didn’t stay there, we might have been struck by boulders on our way down. Definitely, some of us would be hurt,” she said.
While it would normally take 5 hours to descend Mt. Apo, their group did it in 2 to 3 hours because they feared aftershocks.
By the time they reached the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office, the trail was closed to the public.
Asked what it feels like to finally climb Mt. Apo, which they have long planned to do, Armiyah said, "It feels really good but at the same time we were very nervous."