“ (She is) That’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen!”, Evan said to Max while glancing at Julie. Evan clung on to Max and said, “That girl is going to be mine!” Max turned and looked at him with one eyebrow up, “Of course, she is your girlfriend, you dumbass!”, he replied and they laughed. Unknown to what the boys just talked about, Julie approached them with Cleo. “So, are you guys ready? We are all packed up.”, Julie uttered. “Yeah! We’re good to go, baby.”, replied Evan. “Hey! Melisa! Stop smoking! We’re going”, Cleo shouted.
It was a perfect day. The sun was hiding at the back of the morning white clouds. Evan, Julie, Max, Cleo, Randy, Jett, Melisa, and Jim were all ready to go to Davao to go trekking at Mount Apo, which is the highest mountain and volcano in the Philippines towering at 2,954 meters above sea level.
From Davao to Darong, it took them less than hour travel. They went to Santa Cruz which is 45 kilometers southwest of Davao. As they arrived at Santa Cruz Terminal, they go on board on a big tricycle taking them the municipal hall, in the Tourism Office. Inside the office, they asked for a permit to allow them have their trekking adventures of the majestic mountain, and of course to get assisted by the mountain guides or porter as they go on with their trip. Before they could start out their sole intention of trekking in the mountain, they are obliged to attend orientation about the Do’s and Don’t’s in trekking and other essential stuff. After the long orientation, the gang was accompanied by their native guide named Gary and off they ride a bus from Santa Cruz to Digos and then travelled by van from Digos to Kapatagan. As they arrived from Kapatagan, they need to ride the motorcycle-taxi in order for them to get to Barurinf. The travel was quite long and there were no dull moments for they have enjoyed it and ofcourse they cannot hide their excitement about the adventure they will experience. When they arrived at Baruring, they were on their feet and walked about 20 minutes to Lower Colan to register their names at a nearby camp which is ofcourse is a must to any tourists in order for them to continue their travel to the next place, the Upper Colan.
The nature’s view is indeed exhilarating. “Dude, this is it!”, Evan excitedly said to his friends. “Oh, yeah! Boy, let’s do this!”, Jett said and everybody wowed to joy. “The easy part ends right here, my friends.”, Gary said. “Since, shortly over Upper Colon, the thick and wet rain-forest will both slow us down. So, better help one another, ok?”, he added. “Has anyone ever been lost in the jungle before?”, Max asked. “There were countless of tracks over and under Colan and someone might if they don’t have a guide.”, Gary replied. “Hmmm… Interesting.”, Max whispered.
After hours of trekking, they’ve finally reached Tinikaran Holding Camp 1. They were a bit tired and hungry, so they had their lunch there. Then, they continued trekking until getting to Tinikaran Holding Camp 2. Going on top of Camp 2, they will face the thick woods and bushes. A couple of hours of walking in the luscious green, rain poured down and they were drenched in cold. The rain never stopped them to go on and They carry on to climb a sheer incline named "87 degrees” but it was slippery, and their Gary decided that they will let the rain pass to avoid inevitable danger. However, the rain poured heavier and Gary told everyone to take a shelter. Everyone pulled out their tents and quickly assembled them.
While staying inside their tents and waiting for the rain to stop, Jim saw someone from a far. It was like a figure of a skinny man who stands around 6 feet tall. He took out his camera and took a photo of it. As he pressed the shutter, the man-liked figure ran-off quickly and disappeared from the woods. “Holy shit!”, he said and his heart erratically beats fast. Randy, who’s with him inside the tent poked him and said, “Hey dude, you ok?” “Fuck dude. I saw a man outside… in the woods… he was like six feet tall and… God! When I took a photo of him, he disappeared!”, Jim anxiously said. “Woaw! Woaw! Woaw! Slowdown their Eddie Murphy.”, Randy uttered. “Here, look at this.”, Jim said and showed Randy the photo.
Randy investigated the photo carefully and he was convinced. “I am convinced that’s a man, a tall and skinny man.” “What? I don’t think that this is just an ordinary man!”, Jim insisted. “Maybe he is just a lone hermit.”, Randy suggested. “A hermit? And why did he run off that fast?”, Jim asked. “Cam shy, duh!?”, Randy replied. “You know what, you think too much dude.”, he added. “I guess so. How long will this rain to keep on pouring anyway?”, Jim asked and hid his camera back in the bag. “I don’t know dude. We will be stuck here till evening if this will keep on pouring this hard.”, Randy answered.
The rain stopped at around 4:00 p.m. It was advisable that they’ll call it a day. Gary told them that they will continue trekking tomorrow. Everyone was just so pissed off with the rain that poured out of the blue.
The night claimed the forest. Everything was dark and the night creatures of the woods were making sounds. They were liked lullabies, singing them to sleep. Before they all went to snooze, Gary shared a short story - - a ghost story about the creatures of the woods of Mt. Apo.
“Once there was this creature in the dark that lurked in the woods of Mt. Apo. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. From a far, it looked like a dog as it sits - - a big scrawny dog. But when it stood up, it stands six feet tall. Its eyes were glowing when the light of the moon or even in any source of light that will hit it. It has teeth and claws that were sharp as blade and that cut through bones. Its skin has a pale complexion and it’s very sensitive to the scorching hit of the sun.”, Gary uttered in a very frightening way. “So, ummm… Did someone saw it in person? What’s it doing in the woods anyway?”, Evan asked. “Some have claimed that they saw someone or something standing in the middle of the woods and it was looking at them. Then, it immediately disappeared. That was two days ago.”, he replied. As soon as Randy and Jim heard the story, they slowly looked at each other with fear in their eyes. “They said that it’s the Rippers. And, according to the stories of the Bagobo tribe, that there is a very bloodthirsty God named Mandagaran. He is at home on the Mt. Apo and sits on a throne of fire. He can bring good rice harvest if his thirst for human blood is satisfied. The tribe even sacrificed children to him. In some legend, these Rippers of Mt. Apo were the deliverers of the bodies.”, Gary added. “Where did these creatures come from?”, Evan asked. “They came from the ground. They only rise up every millennia for three days to hunt down humans to feed their God. On the first day, they roam around and observe. On the second day, they stalked and follow their victim. And, by the third day, they hunt, kill and eat them.”, Gary answered. “People already forget their place in this world. They forgot to serve Him, so He summoned the Rippers to feed Him and teach humans a lesson along with one of His faithful servant that bears a black spot on her lower back.”, Gary added.
After Gary’s horribly gruesome story, the gang, all dried up have prepared to go to sleep. But Jim and Randy went to Gary’s tent and called his attention. “Yes? How can I help you guys?”, Gary asked. “About your story you’ve shared earlier, about the creature of the woods.”, Jim replied. “Yeah, what about it?”, Gary asked. “ Ummm—we would like to show you something.”, Randy said and lent Jim’s camera to him. “What is this?”, Gary asked. “I think, it’s not just a rumor, sir. I think the story is true. We saw that guy earlier. And by the time I took this shot he ran off hastily.”, Jim said. “Oh! You actually believed on that crappy legend? Come on, guys!”, Gary said and handed back the camera to Jim. But as soon as Jim said a word, they heard someone screamed. It was Julie.
She was frightened and gasping for air when she ran back to the group.
“Some—thing… took Evan!”, Julie cried.
“What happened?”, Jim asked as he approached her.
“While Evan was looking after me while I was peeing, something, from out of nowhere, took him. And… And...” She gasped for air continued talking, “… then dragged him into the thick woods.”
Then suddenly they heard branches and twigs snapping within the woods. They were all in mute and so was the forest. A growling sound echoed from a distant and a shivering cold sweat covered them.
“What is that?”
One by one, they took their flashlights and switched it on. They pointed it in different directions of the woods, checking every corner of it. Then suddenly, Melisa saw something, like a pair of equal-size-glowing orbs that looked like eyes.
“I think I saw something.”
Her hand was shaking fretfully as she tried to follow the orbs with her flashlight. But everytime she followed it, it was avoiding the light.
“It’s like a pair of big perfectly round eyes.”
And then, the orbs multiplied separately and have surrounded them. They felt their individual fears as cold sweats covered their bodies and their minute body hairs are rising, their pairs of human eyes were fixed on the glowing pierces of the unknown things that were moving closer and closer to their circle. Subsequently, man-like figures appeared, walking around, and avoiding the light from their flashlights.
“Oh my God! What are they?”
As soon as the figures were moving gradually closer to them, they could smell the foul stink from these mysterious creatures. All of a sudden, the unknown creatures suddenly taken its halt and hastily took off.
“They are creatures of the woods of Mt. Apo, the Rippers!”, Gary said.
Hurriedly, they took their phones from their bags to call for help but there’s no signal. Then at that moment, Gary’s bag was missing along with his walkie-talkie. The terrified group immediately crammed and would not wait for tomorrow to come but Julie insisted to stay.
“We need to find Evan!”
She tried to convince her friends but she failed.
“Look, it’s impossible to find him. We are in a jungle for God sakes. You know what just happened earlier? We almost got killed! We can’t put our lives at stake. We will not survive here.”, Jim said. “Julie, Jim is right. Evan’s my best friend and it’s difficult to accept that he’s gone. We must go and report this.”, Max uttered and hugged her. Julie cried so hard that night. She was disappointed and hurt because she couldn’t do anything to bring Evan back. The only think she could do now was to go with the group.
Gary led the group. “Just stay in the light and we all be safe.” They turned on their flashlights to light the path they will be walking on. Each step they make were like counted as they stride on the wet ground. Each one of them has two flashlights, one’s pointing at the person in front and one’s pointing at the back. They did this so as to shun with light those mysterious creatures for they know that those were sensitive to light.
While they were quickly walking out of the jungle, Gary noticed that they were followed. He told the group to halt and hush down and took his flashlight from his bag’s shoulder strap. He pointed the source of light out of the group to the surrounding area to illuminate whatever was making that sound from the far right of the jungle. Then suddenly, a very quick pace coming from the left snatched the last person of the line.
“Jiiiiim!!!!!!”, Cleo shouted as a splat of Jim’s blood stained her clothes. They saw Jim being dragged and smashed on a nearby tree. Then three or more of the creatures jumped onto him and ripped Jim’s body into pieces.
Everybody were bloody horrified and ran off. But, the Rippers caught all of them up immediately. The Rippers leap like monkeys but their pace were like hungry cheetahs chasing their preys. Gary and the group didn’t know where their feet were taking them. They didn’t know that a few meters ahead of them was an ambush waiting. Twenty bloodthirsty Rippers were waiting for them. Their sharp claws were all set to shred them into bits. Their jagged teeth were snapping and waiting to bit off their faces. The end was certainly near for them.
It was a run for their lives. Every step they took was a step from their doom and Melisa just took few pace ahead of Gary. They were moving closer to the slope where the ambush awaits. Gary noticed that the six Rippers leaping around the trees were just chasing them and not attacking them. Then suddenly, a sudden realization hit him. He pulled Max, who was beside him, to the right and shouted, “This way! It’s an ambush!” Melisa didn’t have the time to turn around to follow them, She tripped and fell down the slope, body rolling and hitting the rocks and trees and got her flashlight broken. Then, she was on stop when she hit a big tree with her back.
Filled with cuts and bruises, Melisa tried to scream for help. However, she wasn’t able to do so since she broke her ribs. In pain and in difficulty of breathing, she reached out her pant’s packet to get her lighter. It was a total darkness and she could hear something was moving closer to her. She was crying and praying as she was trying to light her lighter up.
“Oh, please. God! Forgive me! Please… Please… Help me!”
She could already smell the strong tainted odor of the Rippers’ body. As soon as her lighter lighted, the face of the Ripper showed just inches from her face. She even noticed that she was surrounded by dozens of them. The Ripper in front of her opened his mouth and its stinky breath engulfed her face. Wide eyed and enveloped with fear, she couldn’t think clearly what will happen next and quick just like the snap of fingers, her face were bitten off of flesh exposing the bowels of her head. The rest of them stuck their claws and teeth in the different portions of her body. They gnawed and gashed her into bits. Her guts were everywhere and her blood was drunk dry and soaked the wet soil of Apo.
Meanwhile, Gary and the others were still running until out of nowhere, saw a hut. It was big enough to keep them safe and hidden for awhile. The hut was abandoned and so they went in immediately. Every corner of the hut, they placed their flashlights aiming to the very center of the hut. “I think were safe here, as long as we are covered with light.”, Gary said. “Déjà vu, anyone?”, Randy replied and Gary stood up. “Look, I did everything to keep you guys safe! I didn’t want this to happen!”, he said in a high tone of voice. “Woah! Guys! Cool it down will ya?”, Jett suggested and Gary sat back on the corner. “Look, we need to put our minds together. We shouldn’t blame anyone for this.”, Jett added. “This can’t be happening. Evan’s gone, Jim and Melisa’s dead. This is all just a bad dream.”, Julie said. Cleo hugged her and both of them cried.
The moment was seized by silence. Not a single creature of the night made a sound, not even the Rippers. Everyone stayed at the center of the hut. “Why there’s hut in the middle of the jungle, anyway?”, Max wondered. “Maybe some hermit made this. It certainly looks old.”, Gary replied. “Do you know where are we?”, Cloe asked. “No, I don’t know. Not a goddamn clue.”, Gary answered. “I think we should stay here till morning.”, Jett suggested and everyone agreed.
The silence was broken by a scream.
Max quickly took a flashlight and peeked from the wooden window. The others followed Max. “Who’s out there?”, Jett asked Max. “I don’t know, but it sounded like Evan.”, Max replied. “Evan? Are you sure it’s Evan?”, Julie asked and looked outside the window. Max moved the light around the woods like a spotlight. Then suddenly, he just saw someone moving. He centered the light where he saw the movement until a man was crawling out of the woods. It was Evan and he was badly hurt.
“OH MY GOD! EVAN!”, Julie shouted and swiftly open the door to rescue Evan. But Gary stopped her and pulled her back in. “No! Let me go!”, Julie screamed while hitting Gary’s chest with her palm. “Gary, what are you doing?”, Max said. “Look at the trees.”, Gary said and closed the door. “It’s a trap. They are luring us.”, Gary added. The others looked at the trees in front of the hut and they saw the Rippers hiding at the branches. “Holy shit— We’re fucked!”, Randy whispered.
As the full moon crept out from the cloud, it lightened up the woods. The Rippers’ hiding place was exposed. They slowly went down from the trees and approached Evan. “He-el-l-p!”, Evan begged with tears they surround him. Max moved the light towards them to save Evan but it was a bad idea. They got freaked out as the light hurt their skin. Because of that, one of the Rippers sunk its claws at Evan’s back and broke his spinal column. Then it threw Evan to the window where Max and the others were peeking. Evan’s body was slammed to the window leaving everybody inside the hut in shock. They looked back outside the window to see if Evan’s still alive. Max looked first, but as soon as he opened the window, the sharp claws of the Ripper punched through the window descending them to Max face. It twisted its hand and pulled Max out all the way through the window. The Rippers outside caught Max’s body in the mid-air.
Everyone was in horror but Gary was brave enough to take one of the heavy backpacks and hit the Ripper at the face. The Ripper was dazed for awhile yet Gary took the opportunity and took his Swiss knife then sliced the Ripper’s throat. It didn’t die right away. It jumped over Gary and stabbing him with its claws to death. Randy, who’s leaning on the wall, tried to help Gary. As soon as he made a move, he was pulled out through the wooden wall by the Rippers outside. While each one was frozen by fright, Gary took his last breath along with the Ripper on top of him.
Jett grabbed the flashlights and pulled Julie and Cloe near him. “Stay close to me.”, he said. “Here, grab this.”, he added and offered them with flashlights. They could see the Rippers walking around the hut and slowly ripping it down. “We’re gonna die, Jett.”, Cloe said. “We’re not going to die.”, Jett insisted. “I’ve got a plan, as long as we stick this close, nothing will happen to us.”, Jett added. “So, what now?”, Julie asked. “We will walk out of here and through the woods until the sun comes up.”, Jett replied. Everyone agreed and sheltered their bodies with light.
Jett, Cloe, and Julie walked over the corpses of Gary and the Ripper. After, passing the corpses, they went out of the door where Evan’s body was laying, what’s left of it. Julie cried instantly and grabbed Jett’s shoulder tightly. “Don’t look.”, Jett said. Bit by bit, they walked out of the hut and into the thick woods. Fear swallowed them up as more than twenty Rippers were surrounding and walking with them. But as they entered the woods, the Rippers stopped. Jett and the others wondered why they stopped. “Let’s move fast.”, Jett suggested. They look away from the Rippers and continued walking. But as they looked back at them, the Rippers disappeared. “Where did they go?”, Julie said. “I don’t know, let’s stick to the plan.”, Jett replied.
While they were walking, Cloe, who’s at the right side of Jett, saw something moving underneath the ground. Before she could even say a word, she was snatched down to the ground. Jett and Julie were shocked and took off immediately. They ran down through woods as the Rippers were following them leaping from tree to tree, to running around the woods, and to digging a tunnel underneath the ground. They went hysterical and screaming. Their hope of surviving the night alive was running away from them. Then suddenly Julie got tripped. Jett went back to but something unexplainable happened. The Rippers didn’t attack her but instead they all jumped on him. Three of the Rippers pinned him down on the ground as Julie walked towards him.
“Julie? What’s going on?!”
“It’s a very long story, Jett. But to make it short, I’m one of Mandaragan’s faithful servants.”
“What? Why are you doing this?”
“It’s my mission.”
“To kill your friends? To kill Evan?”
“I took Evan in the woods because he wants to know about the black spot on my lower back. Well, he needs to go first. Then, next is Jim, since he is the one who’s carrying the proof taken by picture about us. And then, followed by everybody else. I control the Rippers, I’m their master.”
“You have been planning this before? You bitch!”
“Yes! And I’ve been waiting for this day to come. Don’t worry; you and your friends are not the only ones who’re experiencing this tonight. Everyone who stepped on this rock will have the same end what you’re having now!”
“No! I will kill you! Fucking whore!”
“Rip him apart.”
Julie turned around wearing a wicked smile as the Rippers slashed and torn Jett into piece. She walked to the woods and vanished within the darkness. As for the Rippers, they crawled back before the sun touches the tip of Mt. Apo.
The bodies of Evan and the others were nowhere to be found. Until today, it remained a mystery, an x-file, an unsolved case that was never told to the public.