Sunday, June 26, 2011

All Saint's Day Hike in Mt. Pulag

Did you go went to your departed loved ones in the cemetery to pay respect last November 1 or you stayed at home and watch a DVD marathon of the Twilight Saga instead. Or you have to report in Camp Aguinaldo and have to miss this rare oppurtunity. If you said Yes, you may excuse your lazy dumb a** from reading this. However, if you are still reading this, it is either your response was in the negative or your too stubborn not to ignore this blog. Now, I got your attention, let me begin my story, which in any rate is not a ghost story or anything to do with vampires and werewolves but about nine law students incredible hike in Mt. Pulag in Benguet.The aforementioned mountain is the second highest mountain in the Philippines next to Mt Apo. It is approximately a staggering 2,900 meters high.

As far as the Law Mountaineering Society (LMS), the group we formed for our mountain escapades, is concerned, Mt Pulag is the third mountain we have climbed since we started last July. And it's the only our major climb so far. Nevertheless, we managed to do so amidst the struggles and difficulties we have encountered during the hike.

Going back, as approved by the group we decided to meet in Farmer's Plaza in Cubao in our way to Baguio City. For the first time in our three adventures we experienced, nobody as in no one came late. Too bad Weng, one of the original members and has too much patience in waiting the late ones in our previous stints, was not there to witness it. When all the members have arrived, we went directly to the bus terminal. Unlike most of my fellow mountaineers, my previous trip in Baguio was eons ago (I've been there even before the strong earthquake hit the city) so I don't know what to expect there in terms of the cold weather. Being the lousy person I am, I wore only an Adidas shirt, a short and slippers. While in the bus, I wanted to have a good sleep from a tiresome day, which even for a Saturday I have to work. Unfortunately, my seatmate who I will not name for fear of being hit in the face or something like that was uncooperative (Hint: She has a strong resemblance with a Filipina International Pop Star). She kept on talking to me during the whole trip but luckily I caught some rest when she herself was sleeping.

After five seemingly fast hours of travel, we arrived in the coldest city I have ever been to. While we have waited for our jeepney inside a convenient store nearby, I decided to change in mountaineer gear similar to a soldier getting in full battle gear for his forthcoming battle. This time I was wearing a cap, a t-shirt, two jackets, jogging pants, pair of gloves and paor of rubber shoes. Despite my winter attire, I can still feel the extreme cold weather. when our transportation has arrived, we went to the nearby market to buy food that we will eat in the mountain. While waiting for the others, my annoying but lovable seatmate asked me to accompany her around the city. Being the gentleman I know that I am, regretfully but gladly accepted the invitation. So in the wee hours of this cold place, we walked along the famous Session Road. Our feet led us to the Cathedral where a mass was sill on-going so we prayed there for a few moments. As a tradition of mine in my first visit to any church, I am entitled to one wish so I prayed for the success of our adventure.

Fast Forward. After more than three hours of zigzag and rough travel we arrived in the DENR office where we attended the orientation about Mt. Pulag. It took less than an hour and we immediately went to Ambangeg, the trail we will take in thid climb. Going there is not your ordinary kind of route; rough, muddy and bumpy roads were ahead of us. It was like riding in an amusement themed park - quite scary but fun. Then after more than an hour of head banging and twisting inside the vehicle, we landed in our destination.

As expected, even the Ambangeg trail is called an executive trail it would not be a walk in the park to a guy like me, whose form of exercise are reading novels and SCRA's as well as browsing various web sites.Not too mention that I have hypertension and has low level of potassium. It is still unthinkable that I was part of this journey. However, I able to strive myself towards up to the mountain. Despite the heavy load I carried, I was able to withstood the chill of the cold mountain. And after unlimited breaks, nine photo-ops, a bottle of Powerade and a Jingle break that amounts to about three hours of climbing (including singing and talking), we reached Camp 2 of the mountain. This is were we set up camp and stayed for half a day. As a result, it was the perfect time of our bonding with one another. So I thought.

The weather there is extremely too cold. We were like water waiting to be turn into ice. If we were not chilling, we were freezing. Chill. Freeze. Chill again. Freeze again. Chill then Freeze then Chill. Then you add the strong rain above us to make the coldest place I ever been to in my short life. Come to think of it the mountain does not want us to be comfortable around her. Sure the trail was easy but the climate was not. Mt. Pulag gave us a struggle of a lifetime- to survive a blistering cold weather.

There was one thing I felt much stronger than the cold - my stomach. In it was the same case with my fellow mountaineers. No questions ask, Vince, who is a first timer in our group, volunteered to cook for us.Due to the coldness of the environment, cooking was difficult. Still, Vince
rose to the occasion and made us a sinigang na baboy meal.I do not know if it was the tireness or the deliciousness of the meal that I was able to eat four servings despite the very cold weather.The following day, Vhince again cooked for us but this time corned beef ala repolyo was his recipe. Aside from his cooking talent, he was good during the hike. He provided the singing while we are trekking the mountain. I hope he comes again next time and cook for us again (maybe kare-kare or mechado).

Aside from Vince, there were three other neopythes in our group; Ilyne, Grace and Vina. They were admirably great that they were in front
of the pack despite there beginner status. But due to the long time of being together, they unknowingly exposed their weaknesses. Vina vomitted twice because she was feeling ill no thanks to the cold weather. Grace was irritated to our bad jokes about her (Sorry about that).Nonetheless, they were PSG to me. Pabor sa Grupo. Their prescence were too valuable for our group.

There is nothing to say about Hydee but thank you. True to her position as team medic, she aided us throughout the whole time. She comforted Vina when she was sick. She also provided the warmness we needed during the cold night. In addition, we enjoyed the small talks she shared to us. So the next time, we climb, I'll promise to bring D.O. with me as a present for her (Don't forget the eat all you can promise).

Also her second time in the group, Ara was a late entry in this latest adventure. She was not supposed to be with us due to personal reasons but fortunately for everybody excluding myself, she later on decided to come with us. As promise, I will not tell anything bad about her during the hike. Thus, I will have nothing to tell about her aside from the allergies she suffered in the grasslands of the mountain and I hope she's better now (she allegedly claiming that she is allergic to me, of course it is not true because there is no probable cause to begin with).

In every team, there is always one who has the respect of all its fellow teammates. In our case, It is Dennis who possessed that quality. Not only due to the fact he is the elder statesman of LMS but also he displays of being a role model to us. He is the one who probably carried the heaviest load for us, not only to the material aspect but also in mental aspect as well. Acting as our team sweeper, he was always in the rear end of the line to assist any person in front of him. In addition, the two bottles of GSM Blue that he provided were great help during the chilling night.

The only guy left is our Team Leader Raffy. He was the chief architect of this plan in climbing this tall and cold mountain. He laid out the itinerary of our travel and formulated the budget of our expenses.Sure being a leader carries a huge responsibilty but for our sake he took it diligently like a good father of a family. He placed himself in front so he acted as our guide eventhough it's just he's second visit in the mountain. Come to think of it, he should act that way because he is the one who invited all of us so he is responsible for the whole group. However without him, I would never experienced that kind of adventure in my lifetime.

Let me continue in my tale, after our cold but wonderful dinner we set up our tent inside the kubo built in the camp site. The hut protected us from the heavy rains outside. Unfortunately, we did not able to escape from the cold through the land beneath us. As mentioned earlier, we drank two bottles of GSM Blue that help us a bit of being warm for a moment. We were six people inside the tent who decided to get some rest despite the cold weather. As seen in movies and television, we experienced being human blankets to each other so everyone can receive the warmth from our body.Because of the intense weather, it was probably the longest 12 hours I took in my life.

When the day arrived, it did not bring the sun along with it. The rain was still strong and the wind was much stronger. But as a group, we decided to continue our quest in reaching the summit so we embarked in a quite dangerous mission. Going to the peak has a different terrain from the trail below. We have to walk through rocky or muddy trails between the grasslands of the mountain. Also, it should be noted the very rapid winds that seemingly attacked us the whole time we're there. So strong that they able to push me forward. The wind was too strong that the rain seemed to stop and replaced by ice.

I came. I saw. I conquered. That was the famous quote from Napoleon Bonaparte. Those same words I applied when I finally reached the peak of Mt. Pulag. I came because I came here despite the physical adversities I have to endure. I saw because I saw nothing but fog. It was zero visibility, the only disappointment I felt because I did not witness the marvelous cloud formation that the mountain boasts of. I conquered because I conquered the summit despite the treacherous climate the mountain had to offer. In general, it was a personal achievement. I succeed in this remarkable adventure I will never forget that it will always be one of my proudest milestone in my life. Of course, I could not able to do this without eight extraordinary souls that helped me in accomplishing this feat during All Saint's Day.

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